Coda Automotive will open 30 dealers to sell its electric cars

Coda sedan whiteCoda Automotive unveiled its electric sedan in California this past March and, seven months later, the company is ready to open its first dealers to sell the EV. Thirty dealers, mostly in California, will sell the car known simply as the Coda sedan.

“March through July was a soft launch: new car, new company, new manufacturing process, new everything,” Coda CEO Phil Murtaugh told Automotive News. “Now as we get into real production ramp-up we need to add some dealers.”

Most of the dealers will be in Coda’s home state of California, but the company also plans to expand to potentially EV-friendly states such as Florida and Oregon.

Coda has delivered 100 cars in California since the “soft launch” in March. The company did not release any sales projections, but it did say that 1,000 cars have been ordered.

Coda’s ultimate goal is to capture 15 percent of the non-luxury EV market, putting it in direct competition with the Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi i-MiEV, and Ford Focus Electric, but excluding the more expensive Tesla Model S.

Pitched as an economical alternative to other EVs, the Coda costs $37,250, (but is eligible for a $7,500 tax credit). That means it is undercut not just by the super cheap Mitsubishi ($29,125), but also by the Leaf, which starts at $35,200. The Focus starts at $39,200.Coda sedan rear view

The Coda has an average range of 88 miles per charge, giving it a slight advantage over the Leaf (79 miles) and Focus (76 miles), and leaving the i-MiEV, which has a 62-mile range, in the dust.

The Coda sedan is made from a chassis and batteries imported from China, with final assembly taking place in Benicia, California. It is essentially an electric version of the Chinese Hafei Saibao.

In terms of interior and exterior styling, the Coda looks like it’s based on a car from the 1990s. Unlike the EV competition, the Coda also looks like a normal car. Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing is for buyers to decide.

If all goes well, Coda will expand its lineup in 2014 with a second model built entirely in China. The car will be codeveloped with Great Wall Motor Co., and sold under the Coda name in the United States and the Great Wall name in China.

Coda doesn’t seem to have reinvented the wheel with its EV, so it will be interesting to see whether it can stand up to the flashier competition. Opening dealerships is the company’s first step toward becoming a permanent presence in the auto industry, and will be the ultimate test of its viability.