First Coda Electric Sedan Ready to Ship
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.
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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Another piece missing crucial facts. While Coda doesn't have the level of interest that the Leaf or Volt did, from what I understand they have a not insignificant backorder of vehicles, which required a (refundable)$500 deposit. EV buyers are a well-connected bunch, and I imagine most "early adopters" already have it on their radar. While some people no doubt need everyone to know that they are driving an EV, for some performance and price and being different matters more. To those people, the Coda may make more sense. Also, since when did looks matter to fleet buyers? I feel like Coda's best hope is to go after the big fleet buyers who need a car for its efficiency and utility. Tesla launched in California with a generic-looking sportscar based on a British body that had a price tag almost 3x the Coda sedan. Hyundai got its start with boring sedans and look at them now. Don't be so quick to write off Coda.