Electric car startup Coda Automotive started production of its inaugural electric sedan this week, and expects to start delivering its first cars to dealers in December. While Coda pushed back production of the car from the end of 2010 to the end of this year, the sedan has now come out with some interesting features that helps the five-seater stand out from the competition, including a 150-mile range, an under-$40,000 price tag, and a 10-year battery warranty.
The official production car is being shown off at the LA Auto Show this week. Here’s 10 things you need to know about Coda Automotive and its inaugural electric sedan:
1. It’s the first startup to bring a lower cost but mainstream electric sedan to market. Coda, like Fisker and Tesla, (s tsla) is a relatively young company, but instead of starting out focusing on higher-end vehicles like Fisker and Tesla have, Coda’s first electric car has reached a $40,000 price point (before subsidies). Tesla will start delivering its $57,000 car — the Model S — in the middle of 2012, but Coda says it will start delivering its first cars to customers (beyond dealers) in January 2012. Other EV makers have been selling low-speed neighborhood electric vehicles, but Coda’s car is a sedan.
2. It’s competing with Nissan’s LEAF. Because Coda is looking to produce a more mainstream and affordable car, it seems to be directly competing with Nissan’s LEAF. There have been 15,000 LEAFs sold globally, at a price point of $35,000 before subsidies. Coda has boosted its battery range to 150-miles, and its warranty to 10 years, seemingly to offer better features than the LEAF. Which one would you buy?
3. China connection. Coda is relying on deals in China to help it sell its electric car at $40,000. It’s one of the few U.S. electric car startups doing this. Coda has created a joint venture with China battery maker Lishen, called Lio (oil spelled backward). Coda and Lishen agreed to invest $100 million in their venture, and said they’ve received a commitment for a $327 million line of credit from the Bank of Tianjin Joint-Stock Co. In comparison, Tesla originally worked with Lotus for its first car and is building its second car at its factory in Fremont, Calif. Fisker is working with Finnish company Valmet to assemble its first hybrid electric car and will build its second car Project Nina in the U.S.
4. Small volumes initially. Coda plans to produce its electric sedan in relatively small volumes at first. If its original estimates are still correct, about 14,000 in the first year: 7,000 to consumers and 7,000 to fleets. In comparison, Tesla plans to produce 6,000 of its Model S initially, then move into 20,000 per year after that.
5. Coda has raised a significant amount for a startup In late September of this year, Coda closed $150 million in funding. That brings Coda’s total funding to hundreds of millions of dollars — at least $300 million, though former CEO Kevin Czinger told me last year that with that final funding, it would have around $600 million with various commitments.
6. L.A. push. Coda recently moved its headquarters to Los Angeles, from Santa Monica, Calif. California Governor Jerry Brown attended the ribbon-cutting event. L.A., along with the Bay Area, will be one of the hot spots for EVs in the U.S.
7. Value car. I interviewed Coda CEO Phil Murtaugh Wednesday, and he said he thought Coda has the highest value electric car in its class. So with all its beefed-up features and lowered price, Coda is plugging it as the best value for a $40,000 car.
8. Branding effort. Coda has a long road ahead of it in terms of getting its brand out there in front of customers, which could be its biggest hurdle. Both Tesla and Fisker have been able to draw more attention, likely because they started selling sports cars, and have famous founders. And the big auto companies, Nissan and GM, (s gm) have enough money and brand recognition to put out a lot of ads about the LEAF and Volt, respectively.
9. Car delay. Like most of electric car startups, Coda delayed the launch of its inaugural car. Both Fisker and Tesla did the same thing. Coda’s car just went into production, so it will likely be coming to dealers and first customers soon. Murtaugh told me it will land with dealers in December and go to the first reservation holders in January.
10. Coda had been waiting for a DOE loan. Coda had been waiting to get a loan from the Department of Energy’s Advanced Vehicle Manufacturing Program, but has yet to receive one. I’m not sure if its application is still in the works. Both Fisker and Tesla received loans from that program, but they were some of the only startups that did. The other companies that received loans were big auto.