Coda Electric Sedan News
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Jalopnik, the automotive blog, took aim at an easy target yesterday when it posted the “Ten Worst Electric Cars Ever Made.” The list was full of 1970s experiments, three-wheelers, low-speed neighborhood electric vehicles, and Chinese knock-offs—such as Coda Automotive's electric sedan, which hit Number 10 on the list. The goal was yucks: look at a bunch of stupid EVs. But after the LOLs get emailed and tweeted, a more important point emerges. The past era of substandard electric cars—and notions of EVs as glorified golf carts—is long over.
Coda Energy, the remains of former electric vehicle maker Coda Holdings, is a silver-level sponsor of the Energy Storage North America Expo and Conference in San Jose, Calif. in mid-September. This may be the new company’s first public appearance since Coda Holdings was dissolved and its energy storage assets were purchased by a group of investors.
Phil Murtaugh, chief executive of Coda Holdings Inc., spent his last day on the job on Saturday. Murtaugh’s last words as he left the company’s office in Santa Monica, Calif. were, according to a knowledgeable source, “The last one out, please turn out the lights.”
Coda is shutting down its auto operations after selling fewer than 100 cars. The sedan was doomed by a high price, bland styling and the absence of a marketing plan.
For the past couple of years, the electric car market has been characterized by a degree of irrational exuberance. Much of that was killed in 2012. This past year dealt a tough lesson about overstated sales goals for Nissan—and bankruptcies for A123 Systems, Azure Dynamics, Ener1 and Think. Better Place’s Shai Agassi stepped down from the top position at his company, where elaborate battery-swapping schemes have not gained traction. The takeaway for EV companies and fans in 2013 should be to reset expectations—and to be brutally honest about real shortcomings. That’s where Coda Automotive comes in.
Coda Automotive, the California-based maker of an all-electric sedan primarily produced in China, last Friday laid off more than 50 employees, including a substantial part of its sales and marketing staff, according to a source familiar with the company’s business. The source, who contacted PluginCars.com about the news, wants to stay anonymous based on concerns about possible “blow back” from Coda executives.
Coda Automotive is not publicly reporting its sale figures, but anecdotal evidence suggests the numbers are quite low. Despite offering a bigger battery than most of the competition, the company faces big challenges in overcoming its drab style—and the perception that a China-sourced EV is up to par in terms of build quality. It won’t help the company that the car received only two stars in its most recent frontal impact safety testing.
Automakers Tesla Motors and CODA Automotive both operate company-owned showrooms, which are not being called “dealerships,” and which offer the ability to see, touch and feel vehicles, as well as order the vehicles. Tesla vehicles are delivered to consumers’ homes. Telsa claims this means these are not technically dealers, while CODA does have dealers in the traditional sense. Similar to what we’ve seen before, traditional auto dealers are not buying Tesla’s distinction and legal battles are sure to follow.
In 2013, the electric Coda Sedan will try to compete for EV sales in Oregon, Florida and other new markets, according to chief executive officer Phil Murtaugh. That could be a tall order. The Los Angeles-based company, which relies on China for battery cells and gliders, has delivered only 100 Coda Sedan in California since March of 2012.
A small recall should be relatively good news for any automaker. Sure, there’s a problem that needs to be fixed, but at least millions of dollars won’t be needed to rectify the problem on thousands of vehicles. That line of thinking doesn’t apply here, however, since Coda Automotive’s recall of 78 electric-powered sedans hints at a much bigger problem. The low recall figure suggests the California-based start-up has not yet sold 100 vehicles, after about five months on the market.