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Carmaker Fisker lowers 2012 sales view again

By Nichola Groom

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Fisker Automotive Inc has once again ratcheted down sales projections for 2012, saying the rollout of its luxury electric cars in both the United States and Europe was slower than expected due to regulatory hurdles.

The California startup now expects to sell "about 10,000" of its Karma vehicles this year, spokesman Roger Ormisher said, down from a prior projection of between 10,000 and 12,000 given in November. That view had been adjusted from an original target of 15,000.

"We were slower coming into the market in the U.S., and slower coming into Europe," Ormisher said, citing longer-than-expected mileage and emissions certification processes.

The $102,000 Karma is the first production vehicle for the fledgling automaker that was founded in 2007 by Henrik Fisker, a onetime Aston Martin designer. But the process of bringing the much-hyped vehicle to market has been troubled.

Delays in rolling out the Karma have increased scrutiny of the privately held company, which received a $529 million federal loan.

Ormisher's comments come on the heels of a sales warning on Friday from its battery supplier, A123 Systems Inc , and a brief interruption in sales due to a software glitch.

Fisker halted sales of the Karma for four days this month to fix a software malfunction that at times caused warning lights to come on as well as a temporary freezing of the vehicles' navigation systems, Ormisher said.

Henrik Fisker has called customers personally to apologize for the glitch, and sales have now resumed.

"None of them were safety-related issues whatsoever," Ormisher said, likening the fix to a routine software upgrade on a video game console.

One customer filed a formal complaint in December with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that appeared to be related to the software issue. In the complaint, the driver said that while driving the Karma at 35 mph, the car shut itself off, the brakes failed, all the lights on the dash lit up and the steering was impaired. There were no deaths or injuries.

The NHTSA said it would monitor the latest issue but had no plans to open an investigation at this time. The agency has not communicated with Fisker about the complaint.

Ormisher said the company had not been contacted about the complaint, but added that it appeared to be related to the software malfunction.

The glitch is just the latest in a string of headaches for Fisker, which last month was also forced to recall 239 of its plug-in hybrid cars in the United States due to a possible defect that could lead to a leak of coolant fluid and possibly an electrical short circuit.

Fisker is one of a slew of automakers betting heavily on hybrids and pure electric vehicles. Major carmakers including General Motors Co and Nissan Motor Co Ltd <7201.T> already have electric cars on the road, though the push for greener vehicles has also ushered in a host of venture-backed start-ups, including Fisker and Tesla Motors Inc

In addition to its government loan, Fisker has received hundreds of millions in private funding from investors including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Qatar Investment Authority and Advanced Equities.

(Additional reporting by John Crawley in Washington, editing by Matthew Lewis)

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