The Truth About Cars » Coda The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 28 Jul 2014 18:32:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Coda Reuters Explains Why The Miles Bankruptcy Is Relevant To Other EV Bankruptcies Wed, 12 Jun 2013 16:26:01 +0000 Milesev

Yesterday, battery acolytes who hate to see stories of EV makers going bankrupt complained about a TTAC story of another EV maker going bankrupt.  They said the story was unfair, because Miles Electric made electric essential services vehicles, used for parking enforcement and the like, whereas bankrupt EV makers such as Coda tried to sell real cars,so where’s the connection?

Our story actually went to great pains trying to explain this promising niche, in an attempt to say “well, if it doesn’t work here, where will it?”

Wire services such as Reuters are less subtle.  In its article about Miles going bust, Reuters says that the Miles bankruptcy highlights ”the difficulties faced by battery-powered vehicles in gaining wide market acceptance.” Reuters goes on to say:

“Consumers have been slow to gravitate to electric vehicles due to their high cost and concerns about their driving range.

The U.S. Department of Energy in January backed off on President Barack Obama’s goal of putting 1 million electric cars on the road by 2015, and laid out what experts called a more realistic strategy of promoting advanced-drive vehicles and lowering their cost.”

(Expect to read something similar – or identical – in future reports of EV bankruptcies. These paragraphs read like handy boilerplate.)

Today, Reuters comes to the rescue of readers who miss a connection between Miles and makers of real EVs.   It turns out that bankrupt Coda  and bankrupt Miles are connected, so much that, writes Reuters,

“Lio Energy Systems Holdings, based in Delaware, and Hong Kong-based Miles Electric Vehicles Ltd are seeking to have their cases jointly administered with those of parent Coda Holdings and its affiliates, including Coda Automotive, which filed for bankruptcy on May 1.”

According to Reuters, Coda’s founder Miles Rubin is the same Miles Rubin that founded Miles Electric, a company, Reuters says, “that is separate from, but related to, Coda.”

In its new article about Miles & Co., Reuters again uses a lot of the boilerplate language that soon will become very familiar:

“Consumers have been slow to gravitate to electric vehicles due to their high cost, lack of convenience and concerns about their driving range. Among the prominent “green” car makers that face an uncertain future is southern California-based Fisker Automotive Inc, which is seeking a buyer after hiring bankruptcy advisers.”

The U.S. Department of Energy in January backed away from President Barack Obama’s goal of putting 1 million electric cars on the road by 2015, and laid out what experts called a more realistic strategy of promoting advanced-drive vehicles and lowering their cost.

Tesla has put thousands of cars on the road, but Fisker is considering a bankruptcy filing. Fisker’s lithium-ion battery maker, A123 Systems Inc, filed for bankruptcy late last year.”

In my humble opinion, the mere act of starting a new car company in a hope of striking it rich is a symptom of dementia. This industry is very unkind to new entries. Electric propulsion, and producing the cars in China simply add to the already daunting odds. But as long as people invest in these companies, Reuters will be able to re-use its handy boilerplate paragraphs.

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Electric Car Maker Coda Goes Bankrupt Wed, 01 May 2013 11:56:14 +0000

Electric car startup Coda is the latest in a series of greenm dreams to go down the drain – and it won’t be the last. Coda filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection today, writes Reuters,  “after selling just 100 of its all-electric sedans, another example of battery-powered vehicles’ failure to break into the mass market.”

Coda launched its electric sedan in California a year ago. Based on a slider made in China, the car delivered a range of 125 miles on a single charge. For $37,250 MSRP, the few buyers received a no-frills car.

Coda had no shortage of money when it started. Coda raised $300 million in equity from backers “including Aeris Capital, Limited Brands Chief Executive Les Wexner, and former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson,” Reuters says. Nevertheless, $300 million are not enough to develop a car, let alone a car company.

Coda applied for, but withdrew a request for $334 million in federal loans.

Electric cars are a hard sell, but Coda made its life even tougher: “Coda has two problems,” a leading executive of a Japanese OEM that is heavily invested in electric cars told me last year, “they are trying to sell EVs, and cars made in China.”

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Dead LEAFs and GE Chargers Tue, 17 Jul 2012 13:00:05 +0000

The GE Wattstation killed my Leaf! That’s the story being reported by the New York Times as well as As the tale goes, 11 Leaf owners have had their chargers “damaged” while charging with GE’s Wattstation home charging station. The relative significance of only 11 failures aside, the Nissan Dealer in San Pablo, CA confirmed to that Nissan North America has notified dealers of a potential problem with the Leaf and the GE home charging station. TTAC contacted Hilltop Nissan and they have yet to return our calls. Rather than just parroting back the usual news reports we dug deep. We contacted GE and Nissan, consulted some professional electrical engineers and read though hundred of pages of boring SAE documents. Click past the jump to learn more about EV charging than you ever wanted to know.

Before we dissect the dead Leaf issue, we must first understand how EV charging stations work. Because there were a wide variety of charging connectors prior to the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt coming on the scene, we’re going to focus on just the SAE J1772 standard. Other than Tesla, who has decided to off on a tangent with their “prettier” charging connector, all EVs and PHEVs on sale in America use this connector. The short list includes the Leaf, Volt, Karma, Coda, Prius Plug-in, i MiEV, Fit EV, RAV4 EV, Focus Electric, Smart EV, and ActiveE.

The first thing you need to understand is that a “charging station” or “EV home charger” is a confusing term that seems to imply that the home unit is “doing all the work.” In reality, the J1772 connector and station you plug your car into is simply a “smart” extension cord for your car. All the circuitry required to charge the battery, monitor the rate of charge, and keep tabs of the heath of the battery are driving around with you all the time.

Wait! Why is my charger in my car, isn’t that inefficient? While the extra weight of hauling around your charger sounds crazy at first, it is the easiest way to make the charging infrastructure both universal and cost-effective. Because each EV’s battery differs in cell count, voltage, chemistry, cooling characteristics and capacity, it is easier to supply AC power directly to the car and allow the car’s electronics to charge the battery the way it sees fit. The charging connector is simply responsible for communicating to the vehicle what kind of power is available and providing protection to the electrical circuit on which it is installed.

The J1772 connector has 5 pins: AC1, AC2, ground, “control pilot” (aka data) and “proximity detection.” AC1, AC2 and ground are fairly self-explanatory. When using 120VAC AC1 is power and AC2 is neutral. When connected to a 240V circuit AC1 is power and AC2 becomes power as well.

OK, why not just use an extension cord? What’s going on in my charger? Excellent question. Inside the charger we essentially get some relays that turn on and off the power to the pins when the car requests it. In addition we have electronics that communicate the power type (120VAC or 240VAC) and maximum charge current available from the charging station.

So how does it work? When the station is not connected to a car, the AC1 and AC2 pins are not active. This is a safety measure to keep you safe if you should decide to go probing with a paperclip. When you start to connect the vehicle, the first thing that connects is the ground pin because it is longer than the others. The ground in theory helps prevent (among other things) static discharge that could harm the electrical components. The next pins that connect are the power, data and proximity detection pins. Now that everything is connected, the car sees the proximity detect line, establishes a data connection with the charging station, and tells the car what voltage and current options are available. Part of this process involves checking for the presence of a small silicone diode SAE refers to as D1. According to SAE, the purpose of D1 is that it “insures that an EV is actually connected and can be discriminated from other potential low impedance loads.” In other words, D1 isn’t involved in actually charging, just in the verification that there’s actually a car connected to the plug. Next, the car tells the charger what kind of charging it will be doing and requests power. The station energizes AC1 and AC2, the car begins drawing power and charging the battery.

During the charge the station and the car are both monitoring the connection and either device can end the charge at any time. When you unplug the car, the first connections broken are the proximity and control pilot connections, which cause the station to stop power to AC1 and AC2 within milliseconds.

Back to that whole GE thing

The core of the issue seems to be the circuitry that communicates with the charging station. According to SAE, “the minimum control circuit necessary on the EV to use in conjunction with the inlet uses one diode, one capacitor, and one resistor“. Based on the way these components are connected between the “control pilot” pin and the ground connector, the station knows a car is connected and can tell basic charge status.

With me so far? Let’s dig deeper. Suppose that for some reason you had a bad building ground that caused some sort of transient voltage, or ground fault in your home’s electrical system, or a massive power surge from your utility. If this was the case, it is possible to damage the diode which, in this case, is the most likely component to be damaged from a reverse voltage situation. Again, this is possible because the station just connects the car’s on-board charger to the mains. This is likely enough that the J1772 spec outlines that D1 should be rated for at least 100V because “this diode is exposed directly to cable transients.” If D1 fails, charging stations that adhere strictly to J1772 won’t energize AC1 and AC2 because they will think that there is no vehicle connected or there is a fault in the connection.

Actual failures

From my forum research is appears that the Leaf failures fall into two broad categories: D1 failure and a failure involving more than just D1 on the control side of the charger.

The failures can be identified from one another by using the EVSE (Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment) that came with your car. Users on report that if D1 has failed, then the car will still charge with the EVSE as it does not check for the existence of D1 in the first place. If the car fails to charge period, then there’s more wrong.

Assuming there is no design fault inherent in the Wattstation’s “control pilot” design (and we might assume this logically because the issues are limited to Nissan Leaf vehicles only), the most likely possibility is a problem with the an underrated or faulty D1 diode in the Leaf’s charger that makes the control pilot circuit more susceptible to transient current and failure. While it does seem fishy that the problems are only reported with the Wattstation and not the popular Leviton and Nissan branded chargers, the issue likely comes down to surge suppression and bad luck. It is likely that Nissan uses a D1 diode with a lower rating (and therefore affording less protection) than the Volt and Prius plug-in. With so few EVs on the road, and little public information on the specifications of electrical components in the chargers it is hard to say for sure.

With US Leaf sales at approximately 12,841 through June 2012, Volt sales at 16,814, i MiEV at 413 and some 2,000 Plug-in Prius sales to the same date, there are some 32,000 EV/PHEVs on the road (not counting the smaller volume vehicles). GE won’t release specific sales numbers simply citing sales in the “thousands.” Even if we assume this means only 2,000, then the number of actual problem units is just over half a percent. If you assume that half the units went to Volt owners and half went to Leaf owners, then the problem percentage raises only to about 1% of all the units being used with the Leaf. Maybe.

Confirming our hypothesis which is that the root cause of the failure is a factor external to the Leaf we got a statement from Nissan at the 11th hour.

We are aware of several isolated instances of Nissan LEAFs sustaining damage due to voltage current spikes from the power grid. These isolated instances, while resulting in component damage to the on-board charger, did not result in any injuries or fires.  Some of these reported occurred while LEAFs were charging at GE WattStations. Nissan and GE are working to investigate every issue and determine root cause of the charging issues. While this issue represents a handful of incidents out of millions of charging events involving the Nissan LEAF, we are doing everything we can to get to the bottom of the issue. --Katherine Zachary, Nissan North America

While a power surge/spike is the most likely cause, it seems to highlight a possible shortcoming in the Leaf’s charging circuitry that may make it more susceptible to this type of damage. But it’s probably not all D1′s fault, your home might be killing your leaf. If you live in a home built before 1960, your home was likely built without grounded outlets, and possibly without the neutral line being connected to ground properly. If the neutral is “floating,” there is the possibility of having some very strange voltage potentials at the charging connector to your car. We have no real way of knowing whether the Leaf or the Volt is more likely to fail from this sort of event, but we can assume that it may manifest itself in the Leaf first as Volts don’t have to be plugged in to operate. There are a few steps you should take regardless.

1. Get a surge suppressor. You put one on your computer, your TV, your stereo and even your fridge. Why wouldn’t you put one on the most expensive appliance you’ll ever buy? Regardless of the outcome of the GE/Nissan investigation, the few hundred you’ll spend on a surge suppressor is insurance well spent, especially if you live in a lightning prone area. According to GE, the Wattstation has an internal 6kV surge protection per UL2231-2 & IEC 1000-4-5 which is the same standard that Leviton and other competitors meet. Buy a whole house surge suppressor anyway.

2. Have an electrician checkout your electrical system before you have a station installed. This may seem like a no brainer, but if you’re just asking your electrician to install an outlet to plug the station into, or hard wire the station, they may not check your main panel to see what’s going on. Be sure they check your main and all sub-panels (at the least) to see if everything is kosher.

3. If you live in a lighting prone area, have lightning rods professionally installed on your home.


In the end this is a textbook example of the power of the internet. The fact that a very small percentage of problems can make a New York Times article is amusing to say the least. But it also tells us something else: As EVs gain market share and our cars become essentially expensive electrical appliances with expensive computers inside, we need to re-think how we view the quality of the power in our homes.


According to the New York Times: A spokeswoman for Nissan North America, Katherine Zachary, said in an e-mail, “There’s no official Nissan policy instructing customers not to use G.E. WattStations.”

We contacted GE ourselves and got the following response:

Since its launch in 2011, GE’s WattStation Wall Mount has performed as designed, thousands of units have been shipped, and it has received positive reviews from EV drivers. Regarding the charging issue raised by 11 Nissan Leaf owners who had GE WattStations, GE’s current analysis does not indicate that the WattStation is the cause of the reported failures.  GE has been actively working with Nissan to help determine the source of this issue. The GE WattStation has not encountered a similar issue with other brands of electric vehicles. GE’s WattStation is also designed and tested to the SAE J1772 and appropriate UL standards and these tests have been validated by an independent third party. And there have been no design changes to WattStation since its 2011 launch.

The GE WattStation has surge protection per UL2231-2 & IEC 1000-4-5 which will protect the internal circuitry of the charger in the event of a surge up to 6kV.  This  is consistent with what is seen with our competitors.  –Sean Gannon, GE Energy Spokesperson

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Coda Withdraws DOE Loan Request Worth $334 Million Thu, 26 Apr 2012 20:57:58 +0000

Coda Automotive withdrew a Department of Energy loan application after two years of waiting. The $334 million loan was supposed to have gone towards establishing an assembly plant in Columbus, Ohio, but for now, production will continue in China.

The plant would have created as many as 2,000 jobs, but the DOE’s stalling means that production will continue overseas. Coda’s Forrest Beanum told Automotive News that

“It became clear to us after the Solyndra debacle that things in Washington as it pertains to this program were becoming quite politicized…Going into an election year, our objective was not to be unnecessarily scrutinized due to politics,” he said. Rather, its goal was to focus on the U.S. launch of its new EV this year, he added.”

Coda final assembly is carried out in California using “glider” chassis assembled in China. Speculating whether Coda would have really added jobs in the Midwest would just be conjecture at this point (Fisker, anyone). It’s encouraging to see Coda looking to add jobs in America, even if, as Ed points out, the car needs some work to be up to American market standards. Maybe their new tie-up with Great Wall will let them build an EV here without government help too.

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Coda Teams Up With Great Wall To Build “Affordable” EVs Tue, 24 Apr 2012 18:20:04 +0000

Coda Automotive, a Southern California start-up that assembles EVs with Chinese components, announced at today’s Beijing Auto Show that it would partner with the Chinese OEM Great Wall to develop a new, lower-cost EV. Says Coda CEO Phil Murtaugh (who you might remember as a key character in American Wheels, Chinese Roads) explains in a press release

We’re excited to work with Great Wall Motors to develop the second product in Coda’s portfolio, to bring another solution to a global problem and together make high-quality clean technology accessible. Ultimately, this will enable drivers worldwide to go electric affordably and support our mission of putting an EV in everyone’s garage.

Coda’s first product exemplifies the challenges facing the EV startup: namely a high MSRP (starting price $38,145) for a product that doesn’t quite meet competitive standards for the US. Great Wall may not bring a vast improvement in quality to the partnership (although it was the first Chinese OEM to pass European Whole Vehicle Type Approval), but it should be able to help Coda offer a more affordable EV to the US market. The new vehicle will be jointly developed, with Coda taking the lead on the EV powertrain development and final assembly, and GW manufacturing gliders at its plant in Baoding.

Meanwhile, plenty of questions remain. Will lower costs help Coda battle its way out of a brutally niche positioning? Will even cheaper Chinese vehicles meet American-market expectations? Will new product even make a difference to Coda, considering its dealer net is currently only four stores strong? Bertel and I will be meeting with Coda while we’re in the Los Angeles area this week, and we’ll be sure to bring you more details on its alliance with Great Wall as they become available.

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First Coda Electric Sedan Ready to Ship Tue, 13 Mar 2012 21:34:04 +0000  

 Lost in all the bad news from Fisker this week was the announcement that on Monday morning, the first electric sedan from CODA was driven off the company’s assembly line in Benicia, California and that the CODA car is now for sale, after considerable delay.

CODA, which electrifies “gliders” (essentially rolling chassis without drivetrains) made in China by Chang’an Hafei, originally planned on their EVs being on sale in the US in 2010, then delayed that until late 2011. Chinese battery supplier Lio is also part of the venture. The first CODA won’t have very far to be shipped, just down the coast. So far, CODA has only a single dealer, in Los Angeles.

Photo courtesy of Cars In Depth

100,000 people in Cobo Hall and the CODA display was almost deserted, with people walking right by

The announcement that CODA is ready to ship their wares comes on the heels of getting official mileage ratings from the EPA for the electric sedan. The EPA says that the CODA sedan will have a 88 mile range on one battery charge, and a mile per gallon equivalent of 73mpg. CODA says that with “reasonable” driving, range may be as high as 125 miles. The rather pedestrian looking CODA just about splits the difference in pricing between a Nissan Leaf and a Chevy Volt with a MSRP (before any tax creidts) of $37,900. The Leaf has an EPA rated range of 73 miles and a MPGE of 99mpg.

The Leaf may have a similar price and range, but like Toyota and the Prius, and Chevy and the Volt, Nissan has given their EV some distinctive styling. Say what you will about hybrids and EVs, but the Prius, Leaf and Volt stand out in a crowd of conventional cars. The CODA sedan (so far they haven’t given their car a model name) has all the styling grace of a generic-Chinese-sedan and from outside appearances it looks no different than inexpensive sedans costing about half of what the MSRP of the CODA is. Using a Chinese “glider” may have sped up getting the CODA EV to market but in the long run it might have been a mistake to use such a generic looking car. Early adopters, and make no mistake, the folks who buy hybrids and EVs are early adopters, often do so to stand out from the ordinary. The CODA, though, is about as ordinary a looking car as you will find, far more ordinary looking than anything within $10,000 of its asking price.

CODA will have a tough row to hoe getting American consumers interested in their EV, $4/gal gasoline or not. No doubt to show that they’re a real player, CODA displayed their EV at the NAIAS this year. After working the media preview, I happened to attend the public days of the show with my daughter and granddaughter. There was record attendance at the show this year and just about all of the manufacturers’ displays were crowded. Even with a naked EV drivetrain on display, the CODA booth was almost deserted. As far as current EVs are concerned, the CODA may be competitive in terms of price, performance and range, but visually it’s too boring to attract attention from consumers.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks – RJS

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LA Auto Show: Coda Electric Sedan Sat, 19 Nov 2011 17:07:14 +0000

So you want to go green. The problem is a Prius isn’t green enough for you, what’s a green shopper to do? Go all in with all-electric. So far we have the Leaf and the newly announced Focus Electric both with ranges under 100 miles and charge times that can get a little long even at 240V (the Leaf takes 7 hours). In step the new breed of auto makers: Tesla, Fisker and Coda (just to name a few). Coda is a new all-electric car made in China (assembled in California). The first thing that strikes you about the Coda sedan is how plain the design is. The second thing is how the parts don’t come from any parts bin I’ve ever seen with all the window switches and knobs having a unique look. Good or bad? Depends on how reliable the parts are. Coda touts fast charging times with the 6.6KW charger (2x the speed of the Leaf) and a battery pack that’s another 33% larger than the Nissan as well. The shorter charging time and larger battery pack mean an advertised (but not verified) longer range and shorter charging time than the Leaf. The trade off? A cheaper interior. Pricing is expected to be slightly higher than the Leaf at just under $40,000 less the usual tax incentives. On our short spin in the Coda on the roads around the LA Auto Show, the prototype vehicle had too many rough edges that are due to be polished to posit a firm opinion of the car. Stay tuned for a review of the production model in 2012.

IMG_5305 IMG_5306 2012 Coda EV on the road, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes IMG_5308 IMG_5309 2012 Coda EV, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes IMG_5311 IMG_5312 IMG_5313 IMG_5314 IMG_5315 IMG_5316 IMG_5317 IMG_5318 2012 Coda EV, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes IMG_5320 IMG_5321 IMG_5356 IMG_5357 IMG_5358 IMG_5359 2012 Coda Sedan, Drivetrain, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes IMG_5361 IMG_5362 2012 Coda EV Interior IMG_5364 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 6
Chinese Cars? CODA Wants To Be First Wed, 02 Mar 2011 12:26:28 +0000

For years. American and Chinese companies have talked about bringing Chinese cars to America. So far, a lot of talk, little action. Even perennial announcer BYD has not progressed beyond the test phase. Santa Monica’s CODA wants to be the first one. Honestly now.

According to NPR, CODA plans to sell a Made in China electric four-door sedan in the second half of the year. CODA expects to sell 10,000 to 14,000 vehicles in its first 12 months.

The car is based on a conventional vehicle made by Chang’an Hafei Auto, a subsidiary of Chang’an Auto Co.  The car is adapted to electric drive and outfitted with batteries manufactured in a joint venture with Tianjin LiShen Miles Power Battery Systems Co.

In a telling characterization of the state of the EV market, CODA’s CEO, Philip F. Murtaugh  said:

“We won’t be perfect but we will certainly be class-leading.”

Murtaugh is a former chairman of General Motors China who joined CODA last month.

CODA’s sedan will retail for $44,900, or $32,400 after a $7,500 federal tax credit and a $5,000 state government credit,  Forrest Beanum, CODA’s vice president for communications told NPR. What ever happened to those dirt cheap Chinese cars that will wreak havoc in the American market?

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Coda EV Launch Delayed Thu, 18 Nov 2010 16:05:49 +0000

EV startup skeptics that we are, we’ve been keeping a jaundiced eye on Coda ever since we realized the $45k Chinese EV “makes the Volt look good.” Along the way, the news has mostly been of the “lightly dusted with pathos” variety… right up until the firm lost its CEO just months before launching its car. Now the pathos is starting to stack up in deep drifts. Automotive News [sub] reports that the firm has delayed the launch until the second half of next year in order to “build buffer time into the schedule.”

According to the firm’s new interim CEO, the delay is not being caused by problems with its electric sedan, and that former CEO Kevin Czinger “remains an important part of this company.” So, why the delay, and why no specific launch date? This is not a good sign, especially because if Coda wanted a chance at survival it had to get into the market before the major OEMs. A year from now, Nissan and Chevy will be battling for EV customers, and Ford will just be launching its Focus EV. The window of opportunity for a marginal player to sell a $45k electrified Chinese sedan in any numbers will have passed.

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EV Startup CODA Loses CEO Mon, 08 Nov 2010 19:06:42 +0000

When is it a good time for a CEO to step down from an automotive company? This year we’ve already learned that ditching mere months before a major IPO was not a great move for GM CEO Ed Whitacre. But that surprise drop-out may just have been topped by CODA Automotive’s Kevin Czinger, who just resigned a month before his firm starts sales of its very first vehicle. The firm is in the midst of its pre-sales marketing, and is also currently pursuing $125m in financing from Morgan Stanley and others, making this a highly unusual time for a CEO to leave. Czinger, a Goldman Sachs alum, was crucial in bringing investments to CODA from other Goldman alums, including former Treasury boss Hank Paulson and John Bryson. Czinger will stay on as an adviser to the firm, as co-chairman Steve Heller will take over as interim CEO and COO. Earlier this year, Czinger called the CEO position his “dream job” (see video above).

Coda tells Greentechmedia that the transition is part of a long-term plan, but no permanent CEO has been chosen, and the announcement came late on Friday evening, suggesting some kind of internal turmoil. Losing a CEO has become an EV startup rite of passage, and it usually is caused by disagreements between management and investors. Given Coda’s many competitive challenges, we’d guess that this is not a great sign for the makers of electrified Chinese sedans.

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CODA EV: $44,900 For An Electrified Hafei Saibao Tue, 21 Sep 2010 19:05:25 +0000

As with most EVs, we knew about the CODA EV for a long time before a price was ever trotted out (the car was first mooted as the Miles XS500, and was scheduled for a 2009 launch before reality struck). And even before we knew the price, we reckoned that a Chinese-built sedan with Chinese battery cells thrown into it in Southern California would face its fair share of challenges. Now that the CODA EV has been priced at $44,900 (full specs here), we’re certain of it. Of course, Federal tax breaks bring the CODA down to $37,400, and a further California incentive could bring it as low as $32,400, or about $400 less than a Nissan Leaf… before tax breaks. Why would anyone pay $12,000 more for a Chinese fly-by-night when they could have a Nissan? CODA CEO Kevin Czinger tells Automotive News [sub] that

Price is not a decisive factor in the sale of electric cars. I think the 40 percent additional range, and 40 percent additional battery energy with all-season thermal management, is the decisive factor
Unfortunately, his basic premise is wrong. A Financial Times [sub]/Neilsen poll shows that three quarters of American consumers would buy an EV, but that 65 percent would only buy one if it cost the same as a gas car. Meanwhile, $45k still buys a lot of gas-powered car, and most major OEMs will have EVs on the market soon. We give CODA about two years .
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Quote Of The Day: Defining Your Market Edition Thu, 19 Aug 2010 21:05:04 +0000

The core consumers would be interested in technology and kind of early adopters

Coda Automotive senior VP for sales and distribution Mike Jackson (yes, the former GM marketing whiz) describes the market for his firm’s forthcoming electric car. So what is Jackson’s “kind-of-early-adopter” Californian consumer looking to get out of the Coda? A redesigned Mitsubishi platform, built and bodied in China for one thing. Chinese lithium-ion batteries delivering “90-120″ miles of range, and guaranteed for eight years or 100k miles (3 years, or 36k miles for everything else) for another. 134 HP and 221 lb-ft, good for a top speed of 80 MPH. An 8-inch navigation screen with real-time traffic updates. And for you, they’ll throw in 17-inch alloy wheels. But the Coda EV’s most striking feature (at least in terms of appealing to tech-oriented Californians) is best summed up in the measured prose of AutoWeek

It has fairly bland, universal styling and is roughly the size of a Chevrolet Cobalt.

Holy unfortunate comparisons, Batman!

Previously we’d heard that the Coda would cost $45k when it arrives stateside. Now, however, AW reports that

The ambitious goal is to sell 14,000 Codas next year with a sticker in the mid-$30,000 range after the $7,500 federal tax credit and other potential incentives.

If we assume “mid-$30k range” to be $35k, that means the Coda is still at least $1,000 more expensive than the none-too-cheap (but range-extended) Volt. If the “other potential incentives” includes California’s $5k Clean Vehicle Rebate, the $45k number may have been on the low side. For comparison, after the federal credit and the California rebate, the Nissan Leaf should cost about $20,000. And though Coda talks the talk about “American Innovation,” their EV is still a Mitsubishi-based Chinese sedan.

If Coda sells 14k units next year, Chevy will be wishing they had increased the Volt’s production level… and price. But it’s not hard to guess what will happen to Coda in 2012, when Nissan and GM ramp up production and Ford enters the market. They’ll snag a few suckers along the way, but someone obviously still needs to tell Coda’s execs that most Americans would have a tough time paying $45k for anything made in China.

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Coda Automotive: The Epitome Of All-American Innovation (Made In China) Tue, 01 Jun 2010 19:40:46 +0000

Coda Automotive may not be claiming to have paid back the US government, but this video [via greencarreports] sure is one of the more misleading spots we’ve seen in a while. The term “all-American innovation” probably does great with focus groups, but it’s hardly an accurate description for a rolling-chassis Chinese sedan with some Chinese-made (unless the DOE gives Coda a loan for US cell manufacturing) lithium-ion cells bunged into it somewhere in California. Likewise, the fact that internal combustion engines operate at relatively low efficiency is fascinating, but it’s hardly relevant to potential customers. Especially considering this Coda EV is likely to cost about $45k before tax breaks. At that price point, a Chinese-market sedan should run at 110 percent efficiency, and be powered by melted-down AMG tires. And its makers should still have the decency to admit that, like so much in life, we’re entirely dependent on the Chinese to actually build the damn thing.

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EV Startup Coda Snags $58m Investment Wed, 19 May 2010 23:50:50 +0000

On the strength of Coda Automotive’s plan to launch a $45,000 EV conversion of a Chinese Hafei sedan, our coverage of the EV startup (formed from the ashes of Miles Electric Vehicles) has pretty much been limited to the conclusion that it “make the Volt look good.” And as the competition has moved forward, the venture isn’t looking any better by comparison. With news that Nissan will be able to manufacture its Leaf batteries for the low, low price of under $400 per kWh (if all goes to plan, anyway) rocking the EV community, Coda’s proposition of asking $45,000 for a 33.8 kWh lithium-ion battery with a Chinese compact sedan attached to it has not aged well (conservatively assuming the Hafei costs $15k, that still breaks out to nearly $900 per battery kWh, as crude as the comparison may be). But don’t let a little common sense worry you about Coda’s future: according to a company press release [via PRNewswire] the firm just scored a cool $58m in an oversubscribed fundraising round that leaves it with over $125 in total investments.

This “Round C” of investment-gathering was initially limited to $50m, but was apparently expanded to $58 to accommodate unforeseen investor interest. According to the firm, new investors include

EDB Investments (EDBI), a leading investment firm headquartered in Singapore; Countyline LLC, an investment entity owned by Tony Pritzker and J.B. Pritzker; and Les Wexner, Chairman and CEO of Limited Brands. Existing investors Thomas F. Steyer, Mac Heller, Miles Rubin, John Bryson and Angeleno Group also participated.

And a successful investment round wasn’t Coda’s only cause for putting together a press release:

CODA also announced that it will establish an office in Singapore to serve as the design and engineering center for the development and homologation of CODA electric vehicles for right-hand drive markets in Europe and Asia. CODA’s Singapore office will participate in the company’s research and development efforts into vehicle-to-grid technology, a system in which electric vehicles communicate with the power grid to provide electricity during peak demand periods.

“The continued interest in CODA among the investment community is a testament to the strength of our business model and go-to-market strategy,” said Kevin Czinger, President and CEO, CODA. “We welcome EDBI to our team and look forward to working closely together to bring all-electric cars to Singapore and other international markets. While CODA remains focused on the U.S. introduction of our all-electric car this year, international markets, particularly in Asia and Europe, are important to the long term strategic positioning of our company.”

According to the company’s release, that “focus” on the US market translates into the goal of selling 14,000 unit between Q4 of this year and the end of 2011. If that goal is met, the resulting $630m of gross revenue might make these investors look good. But then other $45k-ish-and-up niche vehicles often have a hard time making those numbers: Porsche’s Boxster, for example, has never cracked the 14k annual units barrier, even in years that include Cayman sales in that number. GM is tentatively projecting first-year Volt sales “in the thousands” with volume not reaching the tens of thousands until year two. And, as we’ve already pointed out, The Volt

has a few things going for it, like a gas range-extender, a real (if devastated) dealer network, a metric ton of government money and over a year of relentless hype. Coda Automotive has none of those things

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Siry: Nissan Leaf Has No Active Thermal Management, “Overpromises” Range Numbers Mon, 25 Jan 2010 23:04:07 +0000

Former Tesla PR man Daryl Siry’s Autopia columns are always good for some interesting insights on the EV world… as long as you take them with the grain of salt that Siry’s status as “advisor” to EV startup Coda Automotive demands. This week Siry has it in for the mass-market EV frontrunner, the Nissan Leaf, accusing its makers of “cutting corners” and “overpromising” range specs. According to Siry:

First, Nissan overpromised on the realistic range by consistently quoting a number tied to the most optimistic benchmark, the LA4 cycle. Drivers who stick to stop and go traffic on city streets in temperate climates may indeed consistently see 100 miles of range, but most drivers will see significantly less in a mix of city and highway driving. Driving in California, the country’s top market for electric vehicles, involves a lot of time on highways where the 65 mph speed limit is rarely observed. The LA4 cycle Nissan quotes mostly stay below 30 mph with one two-minute “sprint” at 55 mph every 22 minute cycle.

But wait, there’s more!

It also appears Nissan has cut corners on the most critical aspect of electric vehicle technology – the battery pack. The key engineering tradeoff Nissan has made is opting not to include active thermal management, where the temperature of the pack is controlled by an HVAC system similar to what cools the passenger cabin on a hot day. Instead, Nissan has opted to use only an internal fan that circulates the air within the sealed pack to evenly distribute the heat, which escapes by passive radiation through the pack’s external case.

We don’t need thermal management for the U.S., but we are looking at the technology for Dubai and other locations like that… We’ve gone on the record saying that the pack has a 70-80 percent capacity after 10 years… If it wasn’t our pack and it wasn’t our engineers and we weren’t working on it for 17 years… we wouldn’t make the statement
In a fascinating twist, Paul Hawson, a Nissan product planner who worked on the Leaf tells Siry the active thermal management was left off so the Leaf could be a true five-seater. Otherwise, the thermal management gear would split the rear seats, forcing an awkward two-bucket configuration like that of the Chevy Volt.
But, as Siry points out, it gets pretty hot in Pheonix, Arizona, one of the Leaf’s US launch markets. If Dubai is a concern for Carlos Ghosn’s EV boffins, the American southwest probably should be as well. We’ll bet a nomex suit that Nissan has thought this through, and Siry’s just sniping at Coda’s main competitor… but if Leafs start exploding in warmer locales, Nissan’s gamble on EVs will have been yet another auto industry lesson on the dangers of hubris.
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EV Startup Scores $25m, Ford Still Banking With Uncle Sam Thu, 07 Jan 2010 21:21:54 +0000 Welcome to the game.... (

According to Detroit lore, Henry Kaiser once loudly threatened to throw one hundred million dollars in 1940s money towards the greater glory of Kaiser Motors, drawing a bemused chuckle from GM Chairman Alfred Sloan who quipped “give the man one chip.” Fast forward to 2009, and Coda Automotive, a firm hoping to sell Californians a $45k EV-ified Hafei Saibao Sedan, just scored $25m in funding reports Earth2Tech. That gives the firm a total of $74m raised so far, although the current round of funding won’t closed for another few months, say spokespeople. The latest money, from Aeris Capital, will be spent on “final safety certification testing,” as well as scaling up battery production. In short, Coda is almost-not-quite all the way to one chip in the car game… but that’s still only good for one roll of the dice. Even the weakest automakers have many multiples of that sum in their Treasury escrow accounts. And even the allegedly “bailout free” automakers get to raise debt with a little help from their government friend, TALF.

According to BusinessWeek, Ford Finance is planning on raising a cool half-billion in dealer floorplanning bonds through the government’s Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility program known as TALF. Through TALF, buyers of Ford Finance’s floorplan bonds will qualify for low-cost loans from the Fed, essentially making the debt more valuable than it would otherwise be. Meanwhile, NADA is pushing for an extension of TALF past its planned March 31 expiration, as over $5b in automotive floorplanning could come due this year. Without TALF, NADA worries that dealers could have a tough time finding financing on the open market. Which, given the uncertainty surrounding the future of America’s car market, is not wildly surprising.

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Siry Slams DOE Loan Program For “Stifling Innovation” Tue, 01 Dec 2009 18:20:22 +0000 Where's my NSFW government loan? (

Former Tesla PR honcho Daryl Siry lays into the Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Loan program (ATVML) at Wired’s Autopia blog, taking the $25b program to task for “stifling innovation.” At its core, his argument is a simple one:

Startup companies that enjoy DOE support, most notably Tesla Motors and Fisker Automotive, have an extraordinary advantage over potential competitors since they have secured access to capital on very cheap terms. The magnitude of this advantage puts the DOE in the role of kingmaker with the power to vault a small startup with no product on the market -– as is the case with Fisker — into a potential global player on the back of government financial support.

As a result, the vibrant and competitive market for ideas chasing venture capital that has been the engine of innovation for decades in the United States is being subordinated to the judgments and political inclinations of a government bureaucracy that has never before wielded such market power.

All of which sounds very TTAC… in fact, our lengthy Bailout Watch series began with a similar analysis of the ATVML program (albeit with a Detroit-focused twist). Unfortunately, Siry’s intentions in this case are questionable… as are his conclusions.

At the very bottom of his editorial, Siry reveals himself to be a “special advisor to Coda Automotive,” the EV startup born from the ashes of Miles Electric Vehicles. That Coda has not sought an ATVML handout (because all its manufacturing is done in China) is presumed to give Siry a free pass on conflict-of-interest questions, but Siry’s critique relates directly to the private capital market as well. Siry writes:

The proposition is so irresistible that any reasonable person would prefer to back a company that has received a DOE loan or grant than a company that has not. It is this distortion of the market for private capital that will have a stifling effect on innovation, as private capital chases fewer deals and companies that do not have government backing have a harder time attracting private capital. This doesn’t mean deals won’t get done outside of the energy department’s umbrella, but it means fewer deals will be done and at worse terms.

Translation: Coda can’t raise funds without DOE backing, a reality the company petulantly hinted at in the most recent post on its corporate blog. There, the company lashed out at analyst suggestions that DOE loans would be best spent on established automakers, and now Siry is bashing the DOE’s “kingmaking” of “small startups with no product on the market.” So which is it? The answer can be found in Siry’s conclusion:

A potential solution to this problem may seem counter-intuitive. The best way to avoid market distortion would be for the DOE to cast the net more broadly and provide loans and grants to a larger number of companies — which ironically means being less selective. Subject to the existing equity matching requirement, this would allow the private markets to function more effectively in funding a broader range of companies and driving more innovation. Several innovative companies with great potential have been in the DOE pipeline for many months. Perhaps it is time for the DOE to stop playing favorites and start spreading the love.

Give out money to more firms, less selectively. What a plan. But if Siry is suggesting that Coda Automotive represents the kind of “innovation” being “stifled” by the ATVML program, he’s able to see far more innovation in selling an electrified Chinese Hafei sedan with 100 miles of range for $45k than we do (he doesn’t explicitly, preferring Aptera as a poster child for stifled innovation). The reality is that the EV sector is crammed with as many hucksters and wannabes as legitimate innovators, and “spreading the love” is more likely to result in wasted investments. In theory we agree that DOE “kingmaking” distorts the market, and elevated some questionable firms to near-player status… but interpreting those results as a reason for the DOE to be “less selective” with its lending makes even less sense. Unless, of course, you work for a firm that might benefit from lowered loan standards.

As a lesson in the ATVML’s unintended consequences, Siry’s editorial is dead-on. As a roadmap for future DOE policy, however, it comes up way short.

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