Purpose-built electric vehicles are all the rage today, but for every company that seems to be making a go of it, there are at least two others that are abject failures. Today’s Nice Price or Crack Pipe Coda is one of the latter, but perhaps its price will give it a second chance.
Classifying yesterday’s 1977 AMC Pacer wagon as an acquired taste is like saying that water is wet or that bears do, in fact, shit in the woods. I mean, well, duh.
The thing of it is, having such a small and eclectic audience means little demand for the car—you know, Econ 101—and hence even its modest $3,950 price might seem onerous to the rest of us. That proved to be the case as the voting fell not in the Pacer’s favor, earning the car a 60 percent Crack Price loss when the dust finally settled.
Have you ever heard the phrase “You have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince?” It means that it takes time as well as trial and error to finally arrive at a successful and satisfying resolution to any goal.
I think this mantra could also be applied to the creation of a successful, modern electric car. We have that now with Tesla, a company that offers a whole range of electrics that have been eagerly embraced by the market. The road to that one result, however, is littered with the detritus of other brands and models that failed along the way. One of those was Coda Automotive.
Coda was a California-based electric car maker that tried a more traditional path to the creation of a mainstream electric car, choosing an off the shelf body and adapting it to do the electric boogaloo.
This all took place about a decade back, but the car selected to get its juice on was a Chinese-built small sedan called the Hafei Salbao, which debuted as a gasser in 2004. That car was based on an even older platform and suspension that could trace its roots all the way back to the Mitsubishi Lancer of the 1990s. The Saibao’s shape was designed by Pininfarina, but to be honest, it wasn’t the design house’s best work. Coda’s updates didn’t do anything to improve the looks much either.
What Coda did do was fill the car with a fairly competent electrical drivetrain and charging system, which gave the Coda a factory rated 125-mile range under ideal conditions. Real-world conditions meant a more likely range of about 90 miles. Still, when the car was introduced to the public in 2012 that was better than most similarly priced models from the competition.
That didn’t prove incentive enough to sell what was basically a crummy compact with disappointing interior and an anonymous body. At least not at the Coda’s $38,000 MSRP. In short order, the company folded like Superman on laundry day after selling just 117 of the cars. A number of unfinished cars—sans batteries—were sold off to raise some cash after the fact.
Since those 117 cars were sold in California most of you have likely never so much as laid eyes on a Coda. I’ve actually driven one. The company did a pretty big launch party at the LA Auto Show in 2011—with excellent food!—and offered the media test drives shortly thereafter.
The model I got to tool around LA in was alarmingly underdeveloped with a poorly calibrated throttle and handling that could best be described as that of a drunken hippo. Scary! Many of the kinks were worked out before the cars reached customers, but that initial impression soured the experience for many reviewers.
Hopefully, this 60K survivor offers a better experience. You can bet that it’s going to be unique seeing how few Codas there actually are in the world.
The car comes with a 134 horsepower 100kW electric motor provided by UQM Technologies. That’s juiced by a 31 kWh lithium-ion iron phosphate battery pack with an active thermal management system for battery health and well-being.
The car comes with a clear title but unfortunately not its desirable single-passenger HOV lane stickers. Again, if you’re not from California, what I just said probably reads like Esperanto.
A black on black color scheme dresses the car up a bit, as does a leather-clad interior and some judiciously placed chrome trim. The seats beneath that leather look a bit worse for wear with the driver’s seat especially showing some breakdown of the underlying foam.
The ad notes the replacement of the auxiliary battery as well as both rear wheel cylinders due to seepage. A seat buckle has also been switched out fixing an error light on the dash. Everything looks clean here, with the exception of the bumpers where the white adhesive residue remains from the absent carpool lane stickers.
Who would want a Coda these days? Well, somebody definitely will. If there’s one thing I think we can all agree on it’s that there’s an ass for every seat and a buyer for pretty much every car, once you reach the right price.
The asking price for this Coda is $5,500 which makes it one of the cheapest modern electric cars you could buy. The question for you is whether that’s cheap enough.
What do you think, is that a fair deal to do the electric slide into a quirky bit of electric car history that still seems a viable city commuter? Or, is this car’s actual coda going to be a Crack Pipe loss?
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