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FIRST RIDE: 2011 Coda Sedan Electric Car

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2011 Coda Sedan prototype - side

2011 Coda Sedan prototype - side

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It's not every day that the CEO of a car company takes you for a ride. Especially if it's through the move-it-or-lose-it traffic of midtown Manhattan. In the rain. But Kevin Czinger seemed to enjoy it.

We covered the 2011 Coda Sedan all-electric car when it launched three weeks ago. Now we've had a ride in a development prototype driven by CEO Czinger, with product engineer Dave TenHouten riding along in the rear.

First impressions:

  • STYLING: The Coda has better street presence than photos show, but it's hardly cutting edge. We're still undecided on the blank, grille-free front end. Style could be a drawback for buyers, who Coda thinks will move up to a full electric car from hybrids like the Toyota Prius.
  • PERFORMANCE: In cut-and-thrust New York City traffic, Czinger had his foot in it and the car kept up just fine. We can't comment on highway performance; the most we saw was about 45 mph (yes, the Manhattan speed limit is 30 mph).
  • SEATING & INTERIOR: The front seats were comfortable for our 20-minute trip, though surprisingly low to the floor. The beltline is low too, so visibility was fine. The rear had enough leg room for TenHouten, who's a full-size adult male human. Styling and plastic quality was acceptable, though more like Kia than Cadillac.
  • INSTRUMENT PANEL: Czinger emphasized that the hard plastic dash and instruments were left over from the Chinese-made Hafei Saibao on which the Coda is based, not those of the production car. The new dash will include both digital instruments and advanced airbags, which had the longest lead time of any component. The company must still crash another 30 or so cars to validate them.
  • REFINEMENT: The din of New York exterior noise was fairly well suppressed, though some electric motor whine was apparent. A remarkably noisy heater/air-conditioner pump would be replaced in production cars, said Tenhouten.
  • BUILD QUALITY: This is the biggest question for Coda: Can Chinese-designed and built cars offer the high standards of design and build quality that Western buyers require? Panel gaps were wide but consistent, and we can only say nothing fell off during our tenure in the car. We look forward to crawling over, under, and through a production Coda Sedan.
  • SUMMARY: This first Coda may never attract fashion-forward car buyers, but the greenest of Southern Californians likely look for different qualities in carbon-free cars.
  • PRICE: A list price of $45,000 seems absurd for a not-very-stylish compact car, but the Coda is eligible for a $7,500 Federal tax credit. The state of California may add its own credit as well. A top-of-the-line 2010 Toyota Prius now runs $35,000, so Coda believes it will be competitive enough to attract hard-core green buyers to its first offering.

We were able to follow up on our previous interview with CEO Kevin Czinger and dig deeper into how he sees the car market evolving. Money quote:

When you see consumer innovation happening, you need only one robust instance of a product--look at the Apple iPod, look at the Toyota Prius--to prove the market.

I think we won't need that many incentives to kickstart the market. Innovation will be very, very rapid.

We've now driven prototype EVs from many makers: a 2011 Chevrolet Volt mule, the 2012 Nissan EV prototype, the 2012 Ford Focus EV prototype, and the disappointing Mini E.

How does the Coda Sedan measure up? If the build quality is good enough, we think Coda may be able to sell up to 10,000 cars a year. That's the point at which Czinger says Coda Automotive will make "a tremendous profit."

We hope to bring you driving impressions of the 2011 Coda Sedan within a few months.

2011 Coda Sedan prototype - with CEO Kevin Czinger

2011 Coda Sedan prototype - with CEO Kevin Czinger

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2011 Coda Sedan prototype - charging socket

2011 Coda Sedan prototype - charging socket

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2011 Coda Sedan prototype - front

2011 Coda Sedan prototype - front

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2011 Coda Sedan prototype - production vehicle will have a different dash

2011 Coda Sedan prototype - production vehicle will have a different dash

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2011 Coda Sedan prototype - interior

2011 Coda Sedan prototype - interior

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2011 Coda Sedan prototype - rear

2011 Coda Sedan prototype - rear

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2011 Coda Sedan prototype - under the hood

2011 Coda Sedan prototype - under the hood

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2011 Coda Sedan prototype - front

2011 Coda Sedan prototype - front

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Comments (13)
  1. The electric car is a cool concept but the price is too high. With websites like www.repofinder.com gaining popularity it will take a while for the gas powered inventory to get worked through.
     
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  2. 1) If they can make "a tremendous profit" selling 10K cars a year it is way, WAY overpriced. Do not try to recover development costs on the backs of the first buyers. Good way to make sure your car never gets off the line. Drop the price such that 10K cars makes a SMALL profit and you'll likely sell 2, 5, 10 times as many cars because more people could afford them.
     
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  3. 2) re: "We're still undecided on the blank, grille-free front end." If you don't need airflow through the engine compartment, you don't need a grille! An EV needs a VERY low Cd. Drag caused by designing "because other cars look like that" is very bad indeed (and STUPID!).
    3) Related to #2, choosing a generic existing gas model is a poor plan though I can see the reasoning in getting to market more quickly. I think they could get more MPkW with a more aerodynamic design.
     
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  4. 4) Saying a top of the line 2010 Prius costs $35K thus a $45K Coda is cost competitive is bizarre. The Coda doesn't approach the features in a 2010 Prius III with Nav ($25,550) let alone a Prius V with lane keep assist, dynamic radar cruise control, intelligent parking assist, etc PLUS every available accessory to get up to the quoted $35K. If it were priced the same as an equally appointed Prius, it might pull many more buyers that don't have long distance requirements.
     
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  5. 5)If the car can only do 80 MPH (which is FINE!) why does the speedo go to 140+? Why not make the range more relative to REALITY?
    6) I would not personally toss $45K (or even $38K after tax incentives) at the first car coming to the US from China. Sorry but a 3/36 warranty on a totally unknown product from a company with no history just doesn't cut it.
     
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  6. 7) For the 78% of the US population that drive
     
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  7. If the Volt comes out at ~ $40K, the 78% of the US population that drives
     
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  8. Ugly and too expensive. I would not buy it. I have been green conscious since I was 12, which is longer than I care to think about, and I'll continue to drive my regular car, while doing all the other things I do to keep my footprint green. All these green cars are absurdly priced with no style. When is the people's car going to arrive? Hip, affordable and green. I remember when VW made cars that were affordable, stylish and well-made. That's how they made their mark. Who's going to step up, with a truly green attitude, and make an affordable green car? Please, a car made in China for $45k? They're spending too much money on advertising and CEO salary.
     
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  9. If it were priced the same as an equally appointed Prius, it might pull many more buyers that don't have long distance requirements. Make Money in Minutes
     
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  10. magnolia:
    A car is a tool like many other things, why do it have to be "pretty", if your as green as you say then the elimination of combustion gasses from a car would be your primary concern, not that it's pretty. Cost is another topic, they all are too expensive, so until they come down in price I will continue to ride public transit.
     
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  11. Way overpriced and usually anything from china is junk....I know the batteries are the reason... the car is ok if quality is watched...we need an all electric car that is reasonably priced the oil companys hope it will not happen.,
     
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  12. One would expect sleeker lines and a feeling of more quality with something boasting a $45,000 price tag. As snobbish as green consumers are, I somehow doubt that they'll be rushing out to get one of these Coda electric cars, maybe at half the price, but not at $45,000
     
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  13. styling, 0 to 60, top speed, all are immaterial. what matters TODAY is a car to travel a suitable distance on a charge. all the hype over speed and orsepower can come later. but "real" men have hormonal deficiencies, and need testosterone boosts from their car.
     
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