LOS ANGELES -- Coda Automotive, which plans to sell Chinese electric cars in the United States, has begun signing dealers.
They will sell the 2012 Coda sedan, which the company says has a top speed of 80 mph. The base price, including destination, is $40,795 before state and federal incentives to buy EVs, which can total $10,000 in California.
The company expects retail deliveries to begin in Los Angeles in January.
Phil Murtaugh, Coda's CEO and a former boss of GM China and Chrysler Asia-Pacific, says Coda has signed agreements with five dealers in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle and Honolulu.
Coda wants one or two franchised dealers to handle sales and service per market. Factory-owned "brand experience" centers in shopping malls will offer test drives and funnel sales leads to dealers.
"Our distribution network is something of a hybrid between a traditional dealer network and a company-owned network," Murtaugh said here.
Coda opened its first brand experience center in Los Angeles' upscale Century City neighborhood in August and plans to open its second in San Francisco in the first quarter of 2012.
"We'll give dealers a very large geographic footprint. From our store we'll direct consumers to that guy. That's the benefit for the dealer -- he gets traffic from a very, very large geographic area," Murtaugh said.
He said he hopes to open dealerships in as many as 40 U.S. cities over the next 18 months.
Coda expects safety certification for highway use from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in time to begin retail sales in January. Coda also needs mileage ratings from the EPA and the California Air Resources Board. Murtaugh expects an EPA rating of the equivalent to about 100 mpg and a range of more than 100 miles per full charge.
Coda vehicle bodies are made in China at a joint venture with Haifei Motor Co. The battery system comes from a Coda joint venture with Tianjin Lishen Battery Co. in China. The batteries and bodies are joined at a small plant in Benicia, Calif.
Murtaugh declined to provide an annual sales target but said previous estimates of as many as 15,000 units were "not completely out to lunch."