The 49-year-old Czinger comes to the electric vehicle world from the finance industry and legal field (he was a senior exec at Goldman, Sachs & Co. and Bertelsmann AG and was a practicing lawyer in his previous business lives). He first started looking at Miles EV in December 2007 and started working as CEO in March. So, what's the plan for 2009? "Over the next year, we're very focused on bringing the highway-speed car, which will be named and branded over the next months, to the market," Czinger said. To find out how and when and where, follow us past the jump.
The plan looks like this: "The business strategy is bringing an affordable car that is fully safety certified to the California market first; a car that is not a two-seat car or a limited-use car. It is a car that would serve as a commuter car or as a car to run errands or do things with your family. We all know what these metrics are, right? The daily commute in LA County is about 30 miles, [the rest of ] California is about 40 in weekday driving. We're looking to have a car that people can, during the week, use as their regular car.
"The whole strategy of the company is having a car that can fulfill that function. That means you need to have a five-passenger car, that means that the price point, before any kind of government support needs to be around $40,000, that means you need to have a car that's at least an NCAP 4-rated car [that is, four stars from the European New Car Assessment Programme] from a safety standpoint, and that means that the car needs to have a top speed that allows for safe driving that gives you the same kind of driving experience that you would have in a similar internal combustion car. The car will do about 85 miles per hour, top speed. It's going to have the top speed limited to preserve the range. The range in UDDS [Urban Driving Dynometer Schedule] is a 100-mile-plus range for the car and the 0-60 time is right around 8 seconds. This is a car that people can drive comfortably."
Czinger said that the only way for Miles EV to hit that price point in the US was to find an existing chassis that can be converted to electric drive. That means that Miles EV needed to find someone who had already spent the couple hundred million dollars and piggyback off of the existing cost infrastructure. "That's why we're assembling the car in China off an existing chassis," he said. The vehicle and the battery come from Chinese partners, while the actual design and electronics and much of the integration are US and European. Czinger didn't name the battery supplier, but called them "a long-term partner that we've had" and said the company is scalable and can meet the requirements for the new highway-speed model (yes, it used to be called the Javlon and then the XS500, but now the company is working on a new name to be released sometime in the next 12 months or so).
"From a purely business standpoint, what we're doing is not difficult to understand," Czinger said. "In China you have a large number of automotive companies where the state, in order to grow the automotive sector, has invested large amounts of capital. There is an existing capital base that, within some companies, is underutilized. That is something that, if you're able to bring in Western capability for safety and technology, can be a sustainable advantage for you."
So far, Miles EV has done one crash test with one of theer electric prototypes at 40 mph with a 40 degree offset. Over the next year and a half, aside from releasing the vehicle's name, the Czinger said the following will happen:
- US and EU homologation will be done concurrently
- Four of the prototypes are soon going to be put through durability and reliability testing. Even on an accelerated schedule, that takes six months, then the software will be tuned for full electronic stability control
- By mid-2009, the car will be hardware design complete and then Miles EV will finish vehicle testing and move to initial market testing
- A fleet market introduction into LA at the very end of December 2009 or first quarter of 2010
- By the second quarter of 2010, Miles hopes to be delivering the vehicles to buyers
"With our car," he said, "we can be an extremely profitable company with this business model selling 5,000 cars plus a year. We're not a major auto company that needs to sell 150,000 of a model in order to break even. The important thing for us is to have a car that is engineered by people who are knowledgeable and have brought lots of different cars to market and who are homologating this car, engineering it to hit the vehicle requirements we're talking about and the safety that we're talking about. If we do that, within California itself, we'll be able to sell out at least the 9,000 cars we feel we can produce in 2010.
Who will buy the sedan? Czinger said the company is looking for people who are environmentally conscious and pragmatic, people who are willing to pay a little extra and understand that the car will offer different options than an ICE car. "Then, on the weekend," he said, "if I need to get into my SUV and blast up to Tahoe, I'll feel damn good about myself and have the convenience to be able to do it."
As for future plans, Czinger said that he hopes this same car will still be sold in five years. The company has a ten year plan to update the look now and again. "There are quite a few things you can do to the front and rear lighting, the front fascia, the rear fascia, over that period of time," he said. "But, fundamentally, we'll have put in enough engineering in this car and this chassis that with continual technology upgrades - this is going to be attractive to people [for many years]."
For more on the vehicle, see Miles EV's official FAQ.
[UPDATE: Thanks to Miles EV's Kara Saltness for pointing out a few minor typos in the original version of this post. They have been fixed.]