Coda Automotive, the Sino-American company that wants to bring an all-electric car to the U.S. in the second half of this year, has appointed Phil Murtaugh as its new, permanent CEO.
Murtaugh started in the auto industry in 1973 at GM. He launched GM's effort in China and served as CEO of GM China from 200 to 2005. He also has worked in Europe and Japan and for Isuzu and Chrysler. (But he was not the 'good' cop in Lethal Weapon. That was Roger Murtaugh played by Danny Glover.)
Coda had a rough 2010. The company had to delay the release of its all-electric car, originally due at the end of last year. Right before the L.A. Auto Show it also announced the resignation of CEO Kevin Czinger, a Goldman Sachs exec that helped the company raise money. In 2010, Coda also announced that its car would cost $45,000 before incentives, or $12,000 more than the Nissan Leaf and $15,000 more than the upcoming Mitsubishi i.
But when the calendar turned to 2011, Coda announced it has raised $76 million of a $125 million round. Nissan has only released a token number of Leafs, much to the consternation of people on the waiting list, so demand for electric cars like Coda and other startups are making far outstrips the current supply.
Murtaugh -- who is talking right now on a conference call -- also said the company wants to enter the grid storage market.
"It has as much potential as the automotive market."
Coda gets its batteries from Lio Energy Systems, a joint venture between Coda and Lishen. Lishen's largest shareholder is the China National Offshore Oil Co. Lio, which has received extensive credit from Chinese banks, is currently seeking a DOE loan to build a factory in Ohio. If they can get that loan, it will be an incredible intermingling of national energy plans.
Coda's car is based around a gas-burning car on China's streets now that has been retrofitted extensively to run on batteries and meet U.S. safety and consumer standards. U.S. engineers have overseen the retrofit process and the original design of the car comes from Japan. The car will be manufactured in China, but some final assembly could occur in the states. Is it a Chinese car or not? Czinger and I couldn't agree, and neither could two well-known car reviewers. You decide.
Elsewhere in autos:
--The Environmental Protection Agency, the black helicopter agency of choice for today's conspiracy theory buffs, approved a plan to boost the permissible ethanol blend for cars produced from 2001 through 2006, from 10 percent to 15 percent. Newer cars already are certified for E15, but good luck finding pumps.
--And at the Cleantech Investor Summit in Palm Springs, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk confirmed that the company will show off the Model X, a crossover van/SUV thing, later this year. He told us that last year, adding that the car might hit the road in 2014. You can learn more, and see some of the worst camera work ever to grace a YouTube video, right here.