Coda EV Gets Less Than Perfect Safety Rating

By · December 10, 2012

Coda EV

The vanilla Coda electric sedan.

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.

The Coda Sedan scored a high-ranking of five stars for side impact and rollover testing—but the low frontal impact results reduces its overall rating to four stars. Both the 2012 Nissan LEAF and 2013 Chevrolet Volt earned overall 5-star ratings, as well as other top safety ratings.

When I drove the Coda for a week earlier this year, one of the biggest problems was what auto engineers call “NVH” or noise, vibration and harshness. The whine from the electric motor was annoying—and gave the impression of overall lack of quality. The blemish from a relatively low safety rating could further undermine consumer acceptance.

In billboard ads that I’ve seen on Northern California highways, Coda is playing up its longer range, as much as 125 miles on a charge, and its design with a trunk instead of a hatchback. Even if its ads bring people into a showroom, the key question is if Coda can close the deal with prospective EV buyers—especially considering new plug-ins coming to market, from major automakers offering attractive pricing.

Coda managed to make its first sales in 2012. That’s an accomplishment. The key question for 2013 is if it can ramp up sales to become a legitimate automotive brand in the U.S. market—or decide instead to focus on providing technology to other car makers, especially those in China where quality and safety standards are not as high.

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