Here Wheego Again: Another China-Made Car To Arrive Late

Here Wheego again.

Pardon the pun, but another China-made car is late to the starting gate. Wheego Electric Cars Inc. of Atlanta, Georgia, aimed to introduce its tiny electric vehicle by the end of 2010.

But dealers are still waiting for the EV, which Wheego president Jeff Boyd now says will begin shipping by January 21. BYD and Coda, two other companies whose cars originate in China, have also delayed their launch dates.

Wheego is waiting for final approval from the Department of Transportation to begin selling its LiFe model here in the United States, said Boyd. It has gotten the okay from the Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board. The CARB approval is needed in order to receive a $4,000 Zero Emission Vehicle rebate, said Boyd.

The LiFe, priced at $32,995 before any government rebates, can do 65 miles per hour, Wheego says. It is the second electric vehicle it aims to sell in the U.S. Wheego already offers a low-speed electric vehicle, the Wheego Whip, for which sales have been slow.

Boyd said Wheego already has more than 500 confirmed orders for the LiFe, and has signed up 32 dealers. “More are being added every day,” he wrote in a somewhat breathless e-mail.

Hoping to boost that count, Wheego plans to display a LiFe at the National Automobile Dealers Association meeting in San Francisco early next month.

To be completely accurate, the Wheego is not totally made in China. The body is produced in China at Shijiazhuang Shuanghuan Automobile Co. Ltd., and then the electric running gear is added at a plant in Ontario, California.

Chinese drivers would recognize the Wheego LiFe—the body is based on Shuanghuan’s Noble mini car. The Noble bears a striking resemblance to the Smart ForTwo. 

Indeed, Daimler AG, which owns the Smart brand, took Shuanghuan to court in Europe when the company tried to sell the Noble there. Daimler lost.

Getting approvals to begin sales of the Wheego LiFe and actually managing to sell some aren’t the same thing, however. Wheego seems to think the LiFe will sell because, unlike the earlier low-speed model,  it can be driven on any road.  

Alas, that isn’t likely to overcome the high price and limited utility of such a tiny car. The Wheego measures 118.5 inches by 63.2 inches by 63 inches.

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