Near Lifeless CODA Proving Political Embarrassment
Well, this is embarrassing for City Councilmen Eric Garcetti and Herb Wesson, along with a list of high-powered investors that includes former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and Limited Brands CEO Les Wexner. In various ways, they all bet on Coda Automotive's electric car - Wesson using $1 million of his district's slush fund to entice the company to move to L.A. from Santa Monica (reported in LA Weekly), and investors plunking down more than $200 million on the new business.
Early on, the Coda people were talking about selling 10,000 cars in their first year, and I must say their nifty creative space in Santa Monica made a great first impression - as did their mission statement in front of the office: "Our goal is to put an electric car into every garage in the world." Which of course is a lesson to all those contemplating a start up: Ever be humble. As of this month Coda has laid off much of its staff, and there's not enough money in the kitty to pay off suppliers. One of them, UQM Technologies, has written off its contract to supply drive trains because of doubts about being paid; other vendors are in court.
The capper is that the automaker's highly visible showroom at Westfield Century City has closed (Tesla will be moving in, according to a sign in the space). Truth is Coda has run out of money because it's barely sold any cars (a few hundred deliveries, according to the stories I've seen). Even in the electric car business Coda is at the bottom of the pack - and that's saying something, given the difficulties that all battery-only manufacturers are facing. Here's a good update from the Economist, and here's what I wrote about Coda in the June 2011 issue of Los Angeles magazine:
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