Obama’s Green Lemon

Of all the financial fiascos that have resulted from the Obama administration’s “green” initiatives, the Fisker Karma might be the most hilarious.

The Fisker Karma, in case your other news sources have been too embarrassed to mention it, is an electric sports sedan developed with help from $193 million of federal money, part of a total $529 million loan package sanctioned by the Department of Energy. Anyone old enough to remember the post-war British car industry, the communist Trabant, or even the more recent Chevy Volt already knows the sorry history of state-run auto enterprises, but the Fisker Karma adds an especially strange chapter.

To begin the saga, the Fisker Karma sells for a bit more than $102,000, meaning that the same administration which egged on a protest movement against the wealthiest 1 percent and lectured Americans that “at some point you’ve made enough money” has decided to subsidize the creation of a toy for the super rich. Early buyers of the vehicle include movie star Leonardo DiCaprio, teen dream pop singer Justin Beiber, and jet-setting environmentalist Al Gore, hardly the sort of people who require the taxpayers’ assistance.

Gore is a senior partner, by the way, in the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers, a major backer of the Fisker company and s big-time donor to the Democratic party. In another interesting coincidence, Fisker’s loan application was handled by the firm of Debevoise and Plimpton, whose employees donated nearly $200,000 to Obama’s campaign, a smart investment given the $1.8 million they charged Fisker for their services.

One might argue that the blue collared types who build the car should be able to draw on public funds, and Vice President Joe Biden made that very point when he was photographed with the workers at a Fisker Karma plant in his native Delaware, but shortly afterwards the company shut down the plant and moved the assembly of the vehicle to Finland. Not since President Obama visited the soon-to-be-bankrupt Solyndra solar panel company to proclaim that the company was the “model” for a new economy has a photo opportunity looked so retrospectively ridiculous.

The latest installment in the Fisker Karma tale is what truly raises it to the level of high comedy, however. Another early buyer of the vehicle was Consumer Reports, which forked over $107,000 for a brand new hybrid model and was unable to complete its tests when the thing completely broke down after less than 200 miles. The magazine tells its reader that “We buy about 80 cars a year and this is the first time in memory that we have had a car that is undriveable before it has finished our check-in process.”

Consumer Reports beat us to the “Bad Karma” headline, and concluded its unflattering review by noting that “so far, Fisker ownership is proving to be a bumpy ride.” Unless you’re a big Democratic donor, or Finnish, he brave world of the green economy seems to be stalled on the side of the road, as well.

— Bud Norman


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