Four Used Plug-In Electric Cars To Avoid

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2012 Coda Sedan

2012 Coda Sedan

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There are lots of very good plug-in electric cars for sale now, and some of them are starting to show up on used-car lots.

We recently suggested some used hybrid-electric vehicles to avoid on the used-car lot--and now we turn to electric cars.

Here are four vehicles we suggest you think long and hard before buying, no matter how attractive their prices.

2012 Coda Sedan

This one may be easy to avoid, as reportedly Coda only sold 100 or so of its slab-sided battery-electric compact sedans.

The company's Sino-American stew started life as an adaptation of a Mitsubishi-derived Chinese-market Hafei Saibao, with lithium-ion cells from China assembled into a battery pack and inserted along with the traction motor into the rolling “glider” in a small California factory.

The car might have had a chance if it came to market in 2010 (the original plan) before the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt launched.

As it was, the Coda finally struggled onto the market about a year ago. And while it appeared to have a real-world range of close to 100 miles, it was so riddled with detail deficiencies that not only was it not ready for prime time, it was genuinely irritating to drive.

If you ever see one on a used-car lot, be aware that parts and service may be a challenge. Then consider a used Nissan Leaf instead.

Coda, meanwhile, has now retreated to selling stationary battery storage systems.

2012 Fisker Karma in Costco parking lot, Santa Monica, California [photo: Chris Williams]

2012 Fisker Karma in Costco parking lot, Santa Monica, California [photo: Chris Williams]

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2012 Fisker Karma

We have to admit, Fisker's only production car is one striking design. And many of the 2,000 or so Karma owners love their cars.

That said, the company is all but out of business, it hasn't built a car since last July, and its dealers are abandoning the brand--and their Fisker customers--in droves.

Meanwhile, prices for used Fiskers are falling dramatically, with asking prices of $50,000 for cars that sold new a year ago for $106,000 and more.

More than that, Fiskers suffered from numerous quality problems on launch that led to recalls, service bulletins, and updates.

The Karma is a two-and-a-half-ton car with the footprint of a BMW 7-Series, with so little interior room the EPA calls it a subcompact, and a jaw-droppingly tiny trunk.

It's also the least efficient plug-in electric passenger car sold on the U.S. market.

Supposedly some owners are looking into having their Karmas converted into VL Destinos, which means yanking out the range-extended electric powertrain and dropping in a V-8 Corvette engine.

Just this morning, it appears that VL Automotive may in fact bid for Fisker, or what's left of it.

That might ensure some ongoing parts and service availability. Perhaps.

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