Target: California

And it’s California that Miles is aiming for. With a formal introduction next fall, and “large-scale deliveries” by April 2010, the company projects that it can sell 9,000 cars there in its first year—and up to 30,000 a year thereafter. Right now, Czinger isn’t talking about plans beyond California.

Not every customer will have what Czinger calls “a favorable environment for an EV”—meaning a house relatively close to a Miles service center, a predictable routine, and few climatic extremes. In other words, the eco-aware drivers of the temperate west side of Los Angeles will be a better bet for Miles—especially if they have a standard commute—than long-distance travelers in the snowy Sierra Nevada Mountains east of LA. The sales experience, he says proudly, will carefully analyze potential buyers’ travels—and offer “full disclosure” about range limitations.

Buyers, he says, will include first adopters, but also a larger group of “environmentally conscious pragmatists.” These professional, middle- and upper-income families are aware of issues around energy security and the environment, and will be willing to spend a bit more to make a statement by using a zero-emission vehicle for their daily travel. “They know it’s the first step in a revolutionary change,” says Czinger, “and they won’t have to sacrifice any utility or safety.”

So why would Miles succeed where so many others have failed? After all, the last American car company founded from scratch that still survives is Chrysler—and that was in 1925. Czinger doesn’t hesitate. “What we’re offering can only be offered by having two Chinese partners,” he says, “and [qualifying their work with] our Western partners as well.”

And Miles doesn’t need to sell hundreds of thousands of cars, either. In his effort to convey the right information precisely and quickly, the intense Czinger doesn’t smile often. But his grin lights up when he says, “If I sell 10,000 cars every year, I’ll make a tremendous profit.”