Kevin Czinger, president and CEO of Coda Automotive, has drawn the electric vehicle ( EV) battle line, and it's not where most of us expected it to be. Instead of competing on price, the vehicle that grew out of the Miles neighborhood electric vehicles will fight it out over features. The tell? Coda announced yesterday that the all-electric sedan will cost $44,900 ($37,400 after a federal tax incentive of $7,500). This is much higher than similar offerings from Nissan and the plug-in hybrid Volt from General Motors.
So, why price the relatively unknown EV so high, compared to the better-known vehicles? As Czinger told AutoblogGreen ages ago (or, at least, that's what it feels like, but it was really last October), the secret to the Coda Sedan's success is its battery. This week, he reiterated this stance when he said his car has something those others don't: a big (33.8 kWh) lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) battery. The Leaf has a 24 kWh pack and the Volt just 16 kWh. Also, Czinger said, Coda's pack is reliable in all seasons and will pretty much work in any weather or climate in the U.S., from well below 0 degrees Fahrenheit through to conditions a bit above 100 degrees. This is because the Coda Sedan uses a very high-rate 6.5 kW air compressor that takes dehumidified and either heated or cooled air and recirculates it over the pack. Coda said this reliable battery will provide 120 miles of range, and that might be why Czinger told reporters in a conference call yesterday:
This may or may not be true, but last year, Czinger told us that the sedan would have a sales price of under $30,000 in California. This didn't happen, but California residents can get close if they and the Coda sedan qualify for the state's $5,000 rebate on top of the $7,500 from the Feds.I think that what the EV1 showed is that price is not the decisive factor in electric cars. Let's see what the market says. I think the 40 percent additional range from a 40 percent larger battery is absolutely vital.
On the call, Czinger praised Apple's marketing strategy, saying that representatives from some of the big automakers have said to him that if they could use an Apple store/mall-based sales method – as Coda is planning to do, with one store, on top of online sales – they would use that model. It looks like Czinger also approves of the other sales tactic Apple is known for: expensive products.
Another connection Czinger wants to draw between his car company and Apple is the passion of the customers. "From a brand standpoint, we are a product and a movement," he said, noting that even though Nissan is promoting its all-electric offerings, the automaker is also looking to increase the number of ICE vehicles it sells in the coming years. Coda, on the other hand, is all about electric vehicles, and EVs only. We've long said Nissan is making a big bets on EVs, but it looks like Coda is the automaker that's really rolling the dice on battery-powered automobiles.