If there’s one thing that has truly united America in this time of crisis, it’s the collective fascination, dismay, and horror that comes from contemplating the main characters in Netflix’ very popular documentary about deeply broken, ruthless, and often economically-toothed large-cat-obsessives and their respective cults/feifdoms, called Tiger King. While the documentary is really not about cars, there is one very puzzling and interesting car that does make an appearance, and it’s worth pointing out.
I’ll do my best to not spoil anything about the documentary, because our own Kristen Lee has threatened to stab me with a sharpened screwdriver if I do, so I’ll keep this focused on the car itself as much as possible.
The car in question shows up most prominently in episode five, right about 19 minutes in. The scene involves the documentary’s main focus character, Joe Exotic, at his zoo, and he’s, um, he’s shooting at people with what I assume (and hope) is a BB rifle.
The car is right there in the frame, and, at first glance, I suspect that most people would assume it’s a Smart ForTwo.
But it’s not.
The taillights immediately caught my attention on that body, because they are very clearly not Smart taillights, yet the overall proportions of the body do seem extremely Smart-like. Here, look:
Yeah, that’s not a smart. It’s also an easy mystery to at least partially solve, as the car’s badging is quite clear if you pause the video:
Yes. Kandi Coco. If you were to ask most people if they remember a Kandi Coco from the documentary, I think most people would respond with “Hm. I must have been in the kitchen microwaving another burrito when the scene with the stripper came on.” If that’s the case, you can be forgiven for not being familiar with the Kandi motorcar marque. I wasn’t.
When you look into it, though, it actually makes a lot of sense that this odd little car would show up in Joe Exotic’s Oklahoma zoo. The state is very important here.
You see, the Kandi Coco is technically known as the Zhejiang Kandi K10, and is a small electric car, clearly modeled after the Smart ForTwo, that’s been built for a number of years and has a range of about 40 miles.
The open-top, open-beam door version like we see on Exotic’s property is a Low Speed Vehicle (LSV) version of the Coco, with speed limited to around 25 mph to fit into that vehicle classification.
The Coco normally would cost about $10,600 new, but for a few years around 2009 or so, in Oklahoma specifically, the combination of federal electric car tax rebates and state incentives made the car astoundingly cheap: the feds would give you a $4,435 tax rebate and Oklahoma would give a $5,299 tax voucher for an EV, meaning that the price of a Kandi Coco would be below $900.
With this in mind, of course a zoo in Oklahoma is going to have at least one of these sub-$900 EVs running around—they’d be so much cheaper than a golf cart or something similar (I’ve recently become aware of how overpriced golf carts are) and would make total sense for use as an on-property runabout vehicle.
Really, I’m surprised this whole documentary hasn’t been swarming with these things.
So, if you’re looking for a more uplifting take-away from this documentary other than, holy shit, all these people are terrible, just terrible, you can use this one: for a while, in Oklahoma, you could buy a brand-new Chinese electric convertible for under $900.
That’s a much more life-affirming message, I think.