Electric cars were gaining some serious steam in the early 2010s with cars like the Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S. But among those memorable models were vehicles so bad and so forgettable that I’m surprised any still exist today in 2021. The Coda was one of those cars and Robert Dunn from Aging Wheels is here to show you why it was a dismal failure.
Dunn has an eclectic mix of weird and forgotten cars in his stable from a Wheego LiFe to a Trabant. Many of these strange cars show up on his Aging Wheels YouTube channel. This 2012 Coda is the latest to join his fleet and my, it’s impressively bland. Yet, it’s an exceedingly rare bland car. Coda Automotive only sold 117 of them before going bankrupt.
Coda’s story is similar to that of other electric car startups of the era. The automaker used the body of an existing vehicle from China — the Hafei Saibao — and off-the-shelf components to make an electric car.
Unfortunately for Coda, the car wasn’t all that appealing. While Hafei got famed Italian design firm Pininfarina to design the car, the end result is so nondescript that it looks like every other car on the road at the time. At first sight, I thought the thing was a Honda Civic. That comparison may not be too far off, either, as the Saibao’s design dates back to 2004.
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As Dunn shows in the video, Coda did change a few things with the donor Saibao. It gave the car a mild makeover with new front and rear ends, new wheels and an updated interior. I think the Coda looks a lot better than the Saibao, even if the changes are extremely minor, overall.
Thankfully, the car’s performance somewhat makes up for its design.
The electric motor produces 134 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque. Motor Trend’s comparison of the car with its competitors showed that its performance actually beats the Nissan Leaf and the Mitsubishi i-MiEV. Dunn says the car will effortlessly accelerate to and past any speed you desire. It’ll even outrun its 80 mph speedometer without breaking a sweat.
The car also manages to top its competitors’ range, too. While Coda Automotive advertised a 125-mile range, the EPA was more realistic, rating it at 88 miles. That’s better than the Nissan Leaf’s range of 73 miles back then.
So, fine. It lacks any real emotion on the outside but has good specs inside. Why did Coda fail to sell more than 117 of the things?
Part of the reason may be price. A 2012 Nissan Leaf SV could be had new starting as low as $35,200 while the Coda was $38,145. Buyers had to pay more money for a car from an unknown automaker with a body from China. Coda tried to sweeten the deal with a 10 year, 100,000-mile battery warranty, but ultimately, Coda Automotive failed and the remaining cars ended up in the hands of Mullen Technologies. As of 2019, Mullen still had 50 of these waiting to find a new home.
Dunn’s Coda had around 900 miles when he bought it, and yet the car already shows the kinds of wear and tear you’d expect at closer to 200,000 miles.
The panel gaps are hilarious, the interior is warping and the rear windows no longer roll down.
That’s apparently only a small list of what’s wrong with the little car. A second Coda sits in Dunn’s shop, presumably for the parts he’ll need to fix it.
The most amusing part about the story of the Coda is that the first 500 cars were to be a special run. Of course, with only 117 sold, all Codas are a part of that special run.
Check out the full video on Aging Wheels for some real good laughs and more absurd information about this car. I can’t wait to see what he does with it.