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USA: Coda Encounters Difficulties After Launching Its Electric Sedan

In my review of the Coda electric sedan in last Sunday’s New York Times, I applauded the car for its ability to reliably deliver 100 miles of range on a charge, but criticized the EV for its shortcomings. It was a tricky balance to strike, because the concept that inspired the company—to offer an affordable EV with decent range—is laudable. There are talented dedicated people working at Coda, and I want every company trying to further the mission of electric cars to succeed. But at the end of the day, the car’s lack of style, amenities and ride quality, call into question why a potential EV buyer would go with Coda rather than other more capable electric cars on sale.

Coda’s CEO Phil Murtaugh acknowledged the car’s problems when he told me, “We did not start with a Mercedes Benz S Class. We will probably never reach that level of precision on this vehicle.”

In the New York Times article, I mostly focused on problems that average non-EV drivers would readily understand, like the high-pitched whine from the motor that Bob Ostertag—a guy ready to plunk money down to drive off with a Coda—described as the sound a dentist drill makes. Bob heard the sound when he borrowed a Coda from U.C. Davis, where he teaches. When he complained to Coda about the sound, they said it was fixed in the production version. However, despite his best efforts over about six weeks, the Coda dealership in Silicon Valley has not been able to give him a test drive in a production model. Months after Coda officially went on sale, there are no Coda models to test drive or buy, according to Bob.

Murtaugh also acknowledged the problem. “You’re welcome to call dealers and they will tell you they are not happy with availability,” he said. When asked about how many Codas have been sold so far, Murtaugh declined to answer. “We purposely don’t publish sales results,” he said.

Maybe this is inside baseball, but it illustrates how the noble idea of small company making and selling affordable EVs can come into conflict with the harsh realities of actually making and selling those vehicles.


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