Coda Automotive, the electric-car startup that last fall delayed the launch of its all-electric Sedan, announced this afternoon that it had hired Phil Murtaugh as its new CEO.
It also revealed that it plans to launch its Coda Sedan electric car into the domestic Chinese market once the car has been launched in the U.S. market.
The new CEO has extensive experience in the Chinese automotive industry. He moved to China in January 1996 to negotiate and then launch Shanghai-GM, the joint venture between General Motors and Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation that is now the largest and most successful car company in China.
Both Coda's base vehicle or "glider," minus the powertrain, and the cells for its lithium-ion battery pack are now manufactured in China, although final assembly of the vehicle is expected to take place in the U.S.
2011 Coda Sedan electric car
Before his tenure at Shanghai-GM, Murtaugh worked for GM from 1973 through 1991 at various U.S. facilities, then spent three years running a GM-Isuzu joint venture in England.
He left Shanghai-GM in 2005 to move to SAIC itself, spending a year and a half there before moving to Chrysler. His attempts to establish operations in Asia for that company were dashed by the economic downturn and its subsequent bankruptcy. He has been consulting since then.
On a conference call, Murtaugh pronounced himself "extremely happy" to be joining Coda, saying that the company was at essentially the same stage as Shanghai-GM had been when he joined it.
Murtaugh called the company's business model "very exciting," noting that it would include not only sales of Coda electric vehicles, but also a separate business selling its lithium-ion battery packs for stationary storage applications, to utilities and other customers.
2011 Coda Sedan electric car, 'All Electric' badge, 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show
"Coda has been working with a large number of global suppliers who I know very well," he said, "and I think we will have an extremely competitive product."
"My focus in the next six months," Murtaugh said, "is bringing the 2011 Coda Sedan to market, introducing it in California only during the second half of this year." Coda's Forrest Beanum confirmed that Coda remains on track to launch the compact electric sedan on the revised schedule it announced in November.
During his career, Murtaugh has launched more than a dozen different vehicles over three continents. "It's been many years since I was actively involved in running a car company," he said. "I'm really excited to be coming to Coda."
In introducing Murtaugh, departing interim CEO Heller said, "It's very important to us that Phil believes in the Coda movement, and wants to join the Coda movement."
And, Heller said, "He believes that the auto industry can innovate rapidly and be more responsible as a global citizen."