Coda Takes on Major Players for Affordable Pure Electric Car

California buyers will have the chance to purchase a Chinese-built highway-capable all-electric car by the end of this year. That was the promise made by Coda Automotive CEO Kevin Czinger to a group of about 60 automotive journalists last week. Speaking to a meeting of the Western Automotive Journalists, Czinger revised earlier pronouncements on price, declaring that after the $7,500 federal tax credit, a new Coda sedan will retail for about $30,000, a price comparable to a high-end Toyota Prius with similar equipment. That price point should be very competitive with the Chevy Volt, although will be perhaps $2,000 to $3,000 more than the Nissan Leaf. The Coda sedan, Volt, and Leaf will all go on sale in late 2010.

“We’re focused on the battery,” Czinger said in summary of his start-up company’s reason for being. “We have the first and best (automotive scale) mass-produced battery pack” and “we own the intellectual property on our battery system and advanced electronics.”

Coda is producing the batteries in China in association with Lishen Power Battery. The partners have the potential to make 20,000 units a year. Based on that volume, according to Czinger, the company would have enough capacity to one day consider selling their batteries to other car companies. That lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) battery, which features 728 cells, is durable enough to offer with an 8-year, 100,000-mile warranty.

“To get the first vehicles out, we had to design the battery within the [given] vehicle requirements,” said Czinger. The Coda sedan has a four-passenger Mitsubishi chassis with a nondescript Pininfarina-designed body weighing 3,360 pounds. The Coda sedan will be built to order, so new purchasers can expect their vehicles to be delivered four-to-eight weeks after they’ve been ordered. Prior to delivery, Czinger said that Coda has an arrangement with Sears to have one of their technicians visit the new buyer’s home to determine its adaptability for installation of a 220-volt charger. He added that Sears will handle permitting and installation, an issue that has tripped up some companies venturing into the EV field in the past.

The next Coda car will be designed from the ground up as electric vehicles, Czinger promised.

Coda Sedan

Czinger also addressed the business prospects for the company as it prepares to directly compete against Nissan, Ford, Chevy and other heavy hitters in the plug-in vehicle business. While he personally was one of the early investors, Coda now has access to a “low interest bank facility” to augment its $500 million capital commitment. “This is a very capital-intensive business,” he said, noting that it can easily cost more than $100 million to design and engineer a car for US sales. But Czinger exuded confidence that his small-volume company has the cash, engineering and confidence to succeed.

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  • Eric G

    I don’t care how inexpensive they are, don’t buy chinese cars. They want to take over this last major manufacturing market with their cheap lead coated junk. They are already starting to call the shots in international matters because we owe them so much money and all our income goes to buying their products. This is our last chance…

  • Shines

    Eric – the US has to compete in the global economy. The reason not to buy this car would be because the Volt or Focus EV is a better vehicle. We still have the largest economy in the World. We need to remain competitive by having the highest productivity and most well educated workers. Unfortunately I think we are being too complacent. We have the money to buy their products or our own. We should be spending more of our money on better education and greater efficiencies.

  • Max Reid

    I appreciate your patriotism for the country.
    But neither should we buy Japanese, German, Korean vehicles.

    Neither the foreign oil.
    Big-3 have mastered the flex-fuel technology and there are
    7 million flex-fuel vehicles in american roads. So lets buy
    that from Big-3.

    Soon the Volt, Electric Transit Connect, Focus will come
    and we can go for it.

  • Anonymous

    The difference with Japanese, German and Korean cars is that these governments do not artificially manipulate their currency. The Chinese do to ensure that their products will always be cheaper than US ones. Really we should slowly raise tariffs on Chinese goods or enact regulatory barriers to their entry until they stop manipulating their currency.

    The other difference with China is that there is no transparency in their regulatory efforts. Chinese companies have no qualms about shipping childrens toys filled with high levels of lead and cadmium. They have no qualms about using poisonous melamine in baby formula. And those are just the well publicized shenanigans the Chinese Communist government pulls. Yes, let’s not forget also that the Chinese government is a totalitarian, repressive regime which not so long ago slaughtered a great number of its own people wanting a more open government. And now we’ve shipped all of our manufacturing jobs there, decimated our middle class and are indebted to them due to the corresponding fall in tax revenues. With all of their issues we NEVER should have opened our markets to China, but Wal-mart has better lobbyists than you and I. I sincerely hope our politicians do everything they can to prevent a Chinese car being sold in America.

  • Lyra

    The divisions between humans living on different parts of the surface of this planet – your ‘borders’, your flags, your ‘countries’ – are a tragedy. You bicker over who makes what even though in the end, there really is absolutely no significant difference. You all look the same to those of us watching from the outside.

  • AP

    Anonymous, actually, the Japanese have manipulated their currency for years, by buying US Treasury bonds, so they can undercut the US manufacturers prices. That’s why they are second behind China in owning our debt.

    We’ve allowed ourselves to be subservient to two major competitive manufacturers that can now financially blackmail us, which makes it that much harder to put the trade situation right. If we try to straighten things out, they threaten to flood the world with our bonds, effectively increasing the interest rates the US has to pay.

    However, the Chinese are also very dirty. They do not respect other peoples’ work (inellectual property). Chery actually copied one of our cars (I work for GM) piece-for-piece. Well, sort of. Their copy wouldn’t pass Chinese crash tests, so they used one of our production cars to certify their rip-off!

    GM has made its mistakes (as have the other domestics), but we’ve been fighting more than the Asian manufacturers. We’ve been fighting them plus their government, plus ours (which now ironically owns us!).

    Regardless of whether you trust their technology and quality or not, buying Chinese cars is making a deal with the Devil.

  • Anonymous


    I have no problem with Chinese workers they are hard working and industrious and are doing the same as all other workers in the world by trying to earn a living and make the lives of their families better. No one can fault them for that.

    The problem is the Chinese government and Chinese corporations. They simply have no scruples and have little regard for human life, the environment or anything else. Even after banning lead in toys for children we continue to receive shipments of lead filled toys. Yesterday target announced yet another recall of toys. This time valentines day teddy bears, of all things, have been found with very high levels of lead in them. Some Chinese companies have complied with the ban of lead, but instead of replacing the lead in jewelry with something safe they chose instead to use cadmium which is even more toxic than lead.

    If a Chinese car is imported into the US and there is a problem with the brakes who will ensure they recall them and fix them? The Chinese government and corporations simply cannot be trusted to act in a fair manner in any regard.

    Of course corporations around the world will generally take any advantage they can to make a buck and cannot be trusted anymore than a Chinese corporation, but fortunately most advanced nations in the world have functioning regulatory and judicial systems which keeps them in check. Neither of those exist in China.

  • AP

    Because of the lack of regulation/enforcement in China, you have to wonder how “green” buying one of their cars is. Not only is most of their electricity from coal, the plants that burn coal leave the surrounding cities covered in soot. One coke plant I read about hires worker full time to shovel the soot off the roads (I’m sure it’s dumped in an environmentally-friendly place – like a stream).

  • Wizard

    Funny how all you commentators are talking about China vs US, currencies, working practices etc… Sure it’s the same tosh that was bandied around in the 80’s against the Japanese and so on…

    What about the car? Is it any good?
    If so, bring on the competition!!!

    What we need is more of this stuff, whoever produces it.


  • anonymous

    The Chinese do indeed manipulate their currency for their own economic purposes. The yuan should be much higher and more than a few politicians have complained about that.

    They are not the only onces to engage in currency manipulation. The U.S. dollar has dropped more than 40% in the last few years. Imagine if you were Saudi Arabia and were selling oil at $50/barrel a few years ago. Due to the U.S. letting their currency plummet, their oil is worth less. That falling dollar explains why oil is in the $70-80 trading range. $50/barrel is what the Saudis got a few years ago, and today’s $75/barrel is basically the same price due to the currency fluctuation. That also explains why gold/wheat/copper and every other commodity which is based on the U.S. dollar has jumped so much in price in the last few years.

    Bill Clinton allowed China to get Most Favored Trading nation status because “it will promote democracy and more freedoms for the Chinese people”. Bill Clinton has been out of office for a long time. Does anybody see any democracy in China? Or anything related to Western style freedoms? Just in case you are geopolitically ignorant, China is a Communist dictatorship, their is no freedom of the press, freedom of religion, unions are banned, environmental regulations are a joke (they may be in effect but not enforced), corruption is endemic, the Chinese don’t respect patents, there is not honest courts (good luck if you are a western company trying to get justice in a Chinese court of law). Greedy businesses love China as they failings of China and its endless supply of cheap labor make it an ideal place to do business. We have overseen the greatest transfer of wealth from east to west in history because of this globalization nonsense.

    George Bush signed in Mexico as part of the free trade agreement. The existing free trade agreement was reasonably fair, both countries have labor legislation, pollution laws, and a reasonably honest court system. Mexico is a corrupt third world country who should never have been allowed to join any free trade agreement with first world countries. Last year Mexico made more vehicles that Canada or the U.S. The average salary in the Mexican autoplants is $1-3/hr. Good luck competing with that.

    Greedy companies in the west have exported all the jobs to corrupt third world countries. Its a good thing people don’t riot in the U.S. Globalization means a race to the bottom. How about a trade agreement that respects workers rights and pollution laws. How about we only allow manufactured products from countries with true democracries. I hope Obama introduces legislation promoting the interests of the average citizen rather than greed multinationals.

  • ex-EV1 driver

    “Greedy companies in the west … “
    It is always convenient to blame “big Greedy companies” but I can just as well say that:
    Greedy consumers in the west have flocked to buy things based on being cheap without any regard for where they were manufactured or the conditions there.
    Greed is not limited to big companies.

  • Anonymous

    Wizard, when a country has an artificially low-valued currency, that may give them a couple of thousand dollars advantage in cost vs. domestic cars. With that $2k, they can

    1) pay more people to work longer on the car,
    2) buy higher quality materials to go into it, or
    3) make more money on the car and reinvest to expand, etc.

    So the answer to “What about the car? Is it any good?” is “It had better be, unless their engineers and workers are substandard. If they can’t make a good car with that cost advantage, it just shows how much better our engineers are.

    I’ve been hearing your argument for the 25+ years I’ve worked at GM, and I’m tired of people trying to separate the “currency vs. quality” debate into two separate issues; they are intertwined.

    For all the turmoil of the last years, at least now we have a clean balance sheet (at considerable pain to many), and as soon as we can shake the government involvement (next year?), we should be in good shape.

    By the way, what is the long-term consequence of our trade deficit over the last quarter century? Japan and China owning our debt and owning us. I hope we’ve enjoyed our Japanese TV’s (which killed the US TV’s through dumping in the ’70’s) and cars, as well as our Chinese “you name it,” because when they’re worn out, our country’s interest payments on the debt they own will have just started.

    Hello consumer products, goodbye American independence.

  • Slave to the Grind

    Everyone needs to remember we could have had plug in Ev’s decades ago , but greedy people “politicians” have delayed the inevitable as long as they could.You can thank other countries for applying the pressure needed , because our “FREE” voice was never heard. Personally I’m tired of breathing “Petroleum Poison”.

  • magpie

    Hello, it’s ugly and too expensive… All the “green” cars are outrageously priced. That’s not a “green” attitude. Not buying it or any other “green” car until the prices are realistic and for normal people.

  • Anonymous

    You mentioned about unions being banned…

    The same thing is happening in the U.S. at the moment and we’re not doing anything to stop this Government from taking our freedom away from us…

    and about Chinese workers.. walmart takes special advantage of them… check out the documentary about wal-mart the high cost of low price… we have just the same rotten apples in the U.S. as there are in other countries!

  • Theaxeman

    Easy fix. The haters need to get off of their Right/Left bandwagons long enough to vote for the good of the country. If you are an ILLEGAL you should not be able to work, If you intentionally HIRE an illegal, the fine should be HUGE and run daily. $50,000.00? a thousand a day after the first day?
    If a company sells a product in the U.S. that is made elsewhere, then a portion of the profit should have to taken out in GOODS. Foreign profits made in this country should be taxed at the same rate as profits from American companies. The so called “job creators” should only keep their tax breaks if the actually create a job HERE.