Electric vehicles are here to stay. Whether you like it or not, all the industry majors have thrown their weight behind the burgeoning alternate powertrain technology. Apart from their earth-saving credentials, electric vehicles also benefit from the fact that they have minimal mechanical baggage to deal with helping designers infuse some excitement into their lines. Tesla is a great example of how an EV maker could build beautiful cars from scratch and offer buyers compelling aesthetic reasons to choose its cars over competition. However, not every electric car maker capitalized on this opportunity. One striking example of this is California-based startup electric automaker Coda Automotive.
While Tesla based its Roadster on the gorgeous Lotus Elise, Coda bizarrely decided to reengineer an utterly ordinary Chinese sedan into an electric car. The Hafei Saibao, the Chinese model Coda used as a base, was itself based on a then more than a decade-old version of the Mitsubishi Lancer. Understandably, Coda’s approach of recycling the body of an unremarkable Chinese sedan, which in turn was underpinned by an even older Japanese chassis, worked against them. It didn’t help either that it was priced at $37,250 (Dh137,000), making the Coda more expensive than a Nissan Leaf. So despite its relatively strong technical credentials — it had a range of 142 kilometres — the startup firm could only sell 117 units in the year following its launch in 2012. To make things worse, nearly 80 of these were recalled for problems with air bag deployment, further dampening sales. The outlook was so gloomy that the company filed for bankruptcy in early 2013.
Coda’s electric car project was bought by Mullen Technologies, who tried rehashing it again as the Mullen 700e, which also failed to take off.