We knew electric car startup Coda Automotive was on the hunt for more funds to help it bring its planned $45,000, China-built electric sedan to market next year — but we didn’t expect this: Former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who oversaw the government’s bailout negotiations with General Motors (s GM) and Chrysler last year, has joined a group of investors providing $24 million in Series B funding for Coda.
According to a release this afternoon from the Santa Monica, Calif.-based startup, which spun out last month from low-speed electric vehicle maker Miles Electric Vehicles, other investors in the round include investment bank Piper Jaffray, President Clinton’s Chief of Staff Thomas McLarty and Farallon Capital Management founder Thomas Steyer. Coda/Miles founder and co-chairman Miles Rubin, as well as Kevin Czinger, the company’s current CEO and president, also joined this round.
Paulson’s involvement comes three years after he pressed Chinese officials to raise the value of the yuan during the initial U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue. Now, with those talks taking place again in Washington this week, some manufacturers are saying the undervalued yuan is partly to blame for a decline in U.S. jobs, as the Associated Press reports.
It’s interesting turn of events, given that in addition to China’s growing auto market, increasing government support for plug-in vehicles, and battery tech advances, Coda is leveraging what McKinsey Quarterly describes as China’s “low-cost labor supply, as we’ve noted before. While Coda has a wide range of partners and suppliers, including Delphi, UQM Technologies, Mitsubishi and Continental, the company’s first model — the electric Coda Sedan slated to hit California showrooms next year and eventually become available nationally — will run on battery packs made in Tianjin, China by a new joint venture with battery cell giant Lishen. Along with Lishen, China’s Hafei Motor has worked with the Coda team throughout the development process.