• May 10th 2010 at 7:57AM
  • 16
Coda EV Sedan – Click above for high-res image gallery

Perhaps Coda Automotive heard Tesla's chief executive officer Elon Musk discussing the company's intention of selling vehicles at Apple-style stores or maybe Coda just knows how successful the iPod maker is. Whatever the case, Coda CEO Kevin Czinger has decided that his company will employ the "genius bar" approach that has made Apple so successful. Coda will not use the traditional auto dealer model. Instead, it will begin with one retail store staffed with "geniuses" in California and seven other satellite locations where test drives of the electric vehicle (EV) will be available.

In addition to ditching traditional dealerships, like Tesla, Coda has decided that the service department is also a thing of the past. Now, if you're thinking of buying a Coda vehicle and are worried about what will happen when it breaks down, Coda will offer some peace of mind with a three-year, 36,000-mile warranty and an eight-year guarantee on the battery. So, no need to worry, right? Coda has you covered if you need service, but not in the traditional service department sort of way. Instead, Coda will contract warranty and maintenance work out to trained Firestone technicians at 75 Firestone locations throughout the U.S.

Coda's CEO also offered up some more info on the all-electric sedan. According to Czinger, the price should be somewhere between $30,000 and $35,000 for the 120-mile range electric sedan. The company hopes to drop the EV's price and offer increased range within the next five years. Coda has long said it wants to make and sell 15,000 units by the end of next year; initially, the EV will be offered only in California, though others markets will be added after launch.

Contracting service and eliminating dealerships will lower Coda's start-up costs, but will the fact that there are no Coda dealerships and no service departments lead to no sales, too? Or is this unique approach exactly what's needed to successfully sell this far-from traditional car? At any rate, we're glad to hear a slew of updates from a company that's been a bit too quiet lately.




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  • 16 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      Coda, and to a lesser extent Tesla need to understand the Apple comparisons don't work with cars. The Apple sales experience is good (assuming you don't go into a crowded store) however when it comes to cars, the after sales experience is what makes or breaks a company. When someone brings there Coda in for a problem, will Firestone have a loaners available? One advantage to having a car serviced where it's bought (or at another dealer) is the advantage for soft sales. Sales folks can chat up former customers and possibly get leads. The traditional dealer set-up can have issues, but if done well (see Lexus and the late Saturn) it can lead to customer loyalty even if the cars are not that great.
        • 7 Months Ago
        Without the store model, a startup like Tesla would not have been able to be profitable based on the low-volume Roadster. When you have to give a huge chunk of your revenue to a third party, you're left with less money for yourself.

        Also, dealerships make a lot of money reselling ICE parts and making repairs, both of which would be less necessary for EVs.The CEO of AutoNation (largest dealership network in the world) confirmed that he preferred BMW and Mercedes because they were structured to allow dealers to make lots of margins on repairs & parts.

        Then, if an auto-maker like GM or Chrysler wants to close a dealership for financial reasons (like a bankruptcy), they have to buy them out or face lawsuits. Who needs that kind of trouble?

        ---

        Traditional auto dealers are not right for EVs or for automotive startups. The store model looks expensive on paper, but is more flexible and provides more control over revenue.
        • 7 Months Ago
        Hi Nick,

        CODA has a good product and, you're right, direct sales enable larger revenues and flexibility in the short-term. However, they will need to grow rapidly to compete with Nissan and/or get a return for their investors.

        Capital-intensive stores, sales, and demonstrations will spread their already limited resources too thin and hinder rapid expansion of manufacturing, technology development, and their geographic reach.

        The dealership model has many benefits which allow the manufacturer to focus on making great cars. Fisker is doing just that, granted with the added benefit of a high-margin luxury product.

        Best of luck to CODA, I've ridden in their prototype and was thoroughly impressed.
      • 5 Years Ago
      It's Daewoo in the UK all over again. Disaster.

      Coda needs to rethink its strategy or it will suffer the same fate as well.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Oh Gawd!
      Mastercare is doing the repairs?
      *Note this is a potentially offensive and NSFW:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WLlGcNlseR0
      • 5 Years Ago
      Firestone = end of Coda. I've filed complaints to the Attorney General and BBB about Firestone and their fraudulent practices in the past. Worst...service...ever. Does Coda not do research/surveys before committing to a company? Or was it simply the lowest bidder?
      • 5 Years Ago
      It will surely be an interesting approach to selling the cars, and it seems more likely thats the way more manufactures will head atleast new ones entering the North American market. What vehicle is the Coda based off of? And a new company offering a decent warranty like the 36k Mile warranty is impressive.
      IamXD
      • 5 Years Ago
      3 years or 36k miles? That doesn't sound good at all. I'd be surprised if the Chinese made vehicle lasts much longer than that.

      Coda makes really strange decisions in the name of cost. What incentive does firestone have to do quality work? Might as well be jiffy lube. Companies always make the mistake of outsourcing the most important parts of their business. I would think that repairs and maintenance would be right up there. What happens when the car breaks down and firestone is backed up with brake jobs on old chevys?

      At the end of the day... Who cares? Make my EV a Nissan...

        • 7 Months Ago
        @IamXD
        I lived in Australia about 10 years ago. A company called Proton (which was somehow partnered with Lotus) sold their cars in this type of store. The store had 2 or 3 cars. You could test drive them at the store. If you wanted to but one, you could order and you would pick it up at the store. It seemed like a much better model than the US car dealership model. I'm not sure how the maintenance worked.

        I also believe that traditional car dealers won't like electric cars because maintenance is major profit center. I sat next to a guy on a flight who owned a couple of car dealerships. I can't remember the exact numbers, but he was saying that the margins in their service department were close to 80%. A high revenue, high margin business is not something that a traditional dealer is going to want to give up.

        • 7 Months Ago
        @IamXD
        FYI: Proton owns Lotus, having bought them back in 1996.

        In a roundabout way, you can thank Proton for Tesla.
        • 7 Months Ago
        @IamXD
        Ideally, the BEV will cause no problems and will go forever on normal maintenance; however, we all know that won't happen. This is new technology and subject to failures not anticipated. Also, this technology will usually require more work with multimeters and the brain than with wrenchs and screwdrivers.

        Will Firestone be able to handle this? Like: "Sid, where does this orange wire go?" then the headline the next day: "Firestone Mechanic Eletrocuted by Chinese Electric Car" .
      • 5 Years Ago
      Buying a Coda will require a leap of faith:
      1. There's no guarantee the company will be around in 3 years to honor the warranty, and
      2. There's no dealer network to service the cars, just a deal with a chain of repair shops.

      The Leaf and Volt look like much "safer" choices.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Apparently the nearest Firestone is farther than the range of that car. Good luck selling one here.
        • 7 Months Ago
        PS: Here is in CA. You know, their target market.
      • 7 Months Ago
      Nice car.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The electric car will be disastrous for conventional dealerships, very little maintenance and repair with a BEV.. that will negate the major profit center that dealerships depend on. Its appropriate that CODA just subcontracts Firestone.

      $30,000 and $35,000, is that before or after the $7500 fed tax credit?

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