Federal safety regulators have opened an investigation into Fisker’s first electric vehicle over braking problems.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) issued a notice that it’s probing Fisker’s Ocean SUV for loss of braking performance. The agency is focusing on nine complaints about the issue thus far, including one incident involving a crash and an unspecified injury.
A Fisker spokesperson declined to comment.
The probe comes as the company grapples with lower-than-expected demand and a failure to meet internal sales goals, which TechCrunch exclusively reported earlier this month.
Fisker reported last month it delivered roughly 4,700 SUVs worldwide in 2023. The EV startup, which went public in 2020 via a merger with a special purpose acquisition company, began shipping the first Ocean SUVs in June, about six months after contract manufacturing partner Magna Steyr began building the vehicles. The SUV’s launch was delayed in part because its software was not ready at the time.
Since hitting the roads, owners have lodged 19 complaints with NHTSA on issues ranging from brake loss and problems with the gear shifter to a driver door failing to open from the interior and two instances of the vehicle’s hood suddenly flying up on the highway.
NHTSA says the Ocean can experience “partial loss of braking over low traction surfaces, without alerting the driver,” which “results in a sudden increase in stopping distance,” according to the braking complaints referenced by ODI, which were submitted between October and December 2023. The complaints also reference problems with the Ocean’s regenerative braking.
The complaint involving a crash was submitted in November. The owner reported they were driving from Washington, DC to Richmond, Virginia in slightly rainy conditions when another car swerved into their lane, according to the complaint. The owner said in the complaint the Ocean’s brake “vibrated and felt more plastic than elastic,” and that the car slid “as if the tires seized up.” The low-speed crash was mild enough that neither driver filed a police report, but the complaint states that the other driver has since filed an injury claim with the owner’s insurance agency.
There are four different types of investigation that the ODI can open: Defect Petition, Preliminary Evaluation, Recall Query and Engineering Analysis. NHTSA says it works to complete defect petitions in four months, preliminary evaluations and recall queries in eight months, and engineering analysis probes in 18 months. The agency classified the Fisker probe as a preliminary evaluation.