Electric and hybrid car manufacturers have another headache: a recall of Fisker Automotive's very first production model, the Karma.

The company announced the recall today, saying that hybrid-electric battery supplier A123 Systems had found a possible safety problem with the cooling system on batteries it made for Fisker.

"At Fisker Automotive we see this quick and thorough response as an investment in our long-term reputation as we build a solid company that understands the importance of doing what is right for our customers," said CEO Henrik Fisker in an open letter to customers.


Hose clamps on some of the batteries made by A123 were not aligned properly, and could lead to a leak of coolant fluid, which could lead to an electrical short circuit and possibly start a fire, an A123 official said.

Only 50 or so of the sleek -- and expensive -- Fisker cars have been delivered so far, so the recall won't inconvenience may consumers, but it may cause more consumers to think twice about potential safety problems in battery-powered and hybrid cars.

"We expect this situation to have minimal financial impact on A123, and our relationship with Fisker remains strong," said A123 CEO David Vieau.

$529 million loan

The Karma, supported by $529 million in loans from the U.S. Energy Department, was long-delayed and whether the luxury car takes off remains to be seen.  Fisker has said it expects to sell between 10,000 and 12,000 vehicles in 2012. The plug-in hybrids go for about $100,000 each.

A123, meanwhile, received a $249 million grant from the Energy Department to fund battery production in Michigan, plus another $125 million from the state of Michigan.

Besides Fisker, A123 has a contract to supply batteries for GM's all-electric version of the Chevrolet Spark minicar that's scheduled to be introduced in 2013.

Luxury Car of the Year

The Fisker Karma has also had its share of good news recently. It was crowned ‘Luxury Car of the Year’ by BBC Top Gear magazine as well as ‘Car of the Year’ by Top Gear TV presenter, James May.

The Karma – Fisker’s first production car – is a 403 hp luxury sedan and the company claims it is the world’s first true electric vehicle with extended range (EVer). The EPA rates its electric-only range at 32 miles, its gas and electric range at 230 miles.

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