Coda delays electric car production

LOS ANGELES Tue Nov 16, 2010 5:40pm EST

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - California auto startup Coda Automotive is delaying the launch of its all-electric sedan until the third quarter of 2011, the company's interim chief executive said on Tuesday.

The company will start production of the vehicle next summer to allow time for additional tweaks to the process, Steven "Mac" Heller said at the Reuters Global Autos Summit in Los Angeles.

The company had originally aimed to start selling the vehicle in December.

"These schedules slip as you go," Heller said. "We're not the first car manufacturer to have a delayed start of production."

The company plans to ramp up to an annual production rate of between 12,000 and 14,000 vehicles, but Heller said he did not know when exactly Coda would hit that rate.

Heller, co-chairman of Coda's board of directors, was named interim CEO on November 5. He replaced former CEO Kevin Czinger, who now serves as senior strategic advisor. The company is currently searching for a permanent replacement for Czinger.

Czinger's departure from the CEO post came three days after the company's head of global sales, Michael Jackson, resigned after a little more than nine months on the job. The company has not yet named a replacement for Jackson.

Major automakers, including Nissan Motor Co (7201.T) and General Motors GM.UL, are racing to launch electric cars, betting these will be the environmentally friendly transportation of the future.

The move toward electric engines has drawn a wave of new companies into the auto industry, including Coda, Fisker Automotive and Tesla Motors (TSLA.O).

Coda's five-passenger, all-electric Coda Sedan will cost $32,400 after federal and state incentives.

That includes a $7,500 federal tax credit and a $5,000 cash rebate from California, where the car will be marketed almost exclusively in its first year.

Coda is based in Santa Monica, California, and its sedan will have a range of 90 to 120 miles.

The company has applied for a loan from the U.S. Department of Energy to build a battery manufacturing plant in Ohio.

The Coda Sedan will be assembled in China and then finished in Northern California at a temporary facility in Benicia. The company hopes to set up a permanent facility in California and is looking at the Los Angeles area.

Coda expects to go public at some point, Heller said, but did not say when.

(Reporting by Nichola Groom; Editing by Richard Chang; Carol Bishopric)