By on November 8, 2010

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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