Coda Pushes Back Sales Date of Electric Sedan

On the heels of management changes at Coda Automotive, the electric car startup has decided to push back the sales date of its inaugural all-electric sedan to the third quarter of 2011, interim CEO Steven “Mac” Heller told me in an interview Tuesday morning. Previously, Coda was shooting to start selling its car starting in December 2010, which would have made it one of the first mainstream plug-in cars on the market. Now, the Coda Sedan will go on sale several months after the Nissan LEAF and GM’s Volt.

Heller told me Coda now plans to start production of the car in the summer of 2011 in order to give the company “a buffer,” to ensure the quality of the car. “We want to be triple-sure that when we bring the car to market, it will be perfect, and consumers will have confidence in it,” said Heller. Coda is still looking to ramp up to selling around 14,000 sedans in its first year on sale, said Heller (former CEO Kevin Czinger told me the company planned for 7,000 to consumers and 7,000 to fleets), but clearly, that estimate has moved out a good 8 to 12 months.

Heller made a point to say in the phone interview that Coda won’t be changing directions strategically, and marketing and design of the vehicle will remain unchanged. Heller has been co-chairman, and on Coda’s board, for several years, and said he and Czinger basically flipped roles, and Czinger will now act as a strategic advisor.

Missing production dates isn’t at all uncommon for electric vehicle startups. Tesla (s TSLA) famously pushed out the sale of its inaugural vehicle — the electric Roadster — for months, and has finally seemed to recover from that move. Other electric car companies, like Aptera, have pushed back sales dates of its cars, and have seemed to struggle.

Still, it’s not a good thing to announce production and sales dates, then retract them, particularly for a three-year-old startup. Investors and consumers don’t generally like that. Heller tells me Coda is still in the process of raising a round of $125 million, led by Morgan Stanley. In terms of its loan application with the Department of Energy, Heller said “We’re waiting by the phone.”

When I asked Heller if he thought sales of the Coda sedan would be negatively impacted now that the car would go on sale after competitors, he said, “We think there will be a substantial demand for our car and EVs generally, and we think there will be a shortage of our car and EVs generally.”

Coda’s betting its Sedan will give a more reliable, longer range, and that consumers will like the fact that they are an EV-only company compared to other plug-in cars on the market (not a legacy automaker that’s converted an internal combustion car over to an EV).


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