This item just shows that I wasn't so far off the mark with my previous posting about geeks making the best electric car salesmen. Coda Automotive is taking a leaf out of Apple's book in its approach to selling its electric cars. More than that, its CEO Kevin Czinger says "We are looking at this not as a new-car-model introduction, but as a new technology introduction."
I love the way he's going about this. While his company is based in California, he's talking about locating his battery plant in Ohio where the state is falling over itself to land the 1,000 jobs that the plant will bring. The lithium-ion battery is intended to deliver over 120 miles on a charge, so that's quite a respectable range for most users.
Here's where the Coda approach gets really interesting. The vehicle's body will be assembled in China at a leased plant and the partially built car then shipped to California for final assembly. Smart move - no need to pay up front for an assembly plant, so he keeps startup costs down.
Another smart move. He's planning a single retail store in LA County with seven other locations across California where customers can go for a test drive. (The cars will be available later in 2010 and the price is expected to start around $30-$35K.)
The cars will have a three-year, 36,000 mile warranty on all components and an eight-year, 100,000 mile warranty on the battery, but Coda has no need for a service department. It has sorted out a contract with Firestone to have their technicians trained to do warranty work at their 75 Firestone retail outlets.
Czinger has also devised a way of keeping down the cost of the retail model and this is where the geekery comes in. Like the "Genius Bar" at Apple retail stores he'll have electric car experts on hand to advise customers in a low-pressure environment and deal with the inevitable technical questions. As he said, this is a new technology more than just a new car, so it's appropriate that it should offer a very different experience from the normal one of venturing into a car showroom.
BTW - it's interesting to read the comments posted below the Autobloggreen article on this topic. Let me quote Nick from Montreal: "... dealerships make a lot of money reselling ICE parts and making repairs, both of which would be less necessary for EVs. The CEO of AutoNation (largest dealership network in the world) confirmed that he preferred BMW and Mercedes because they were structured to allow dealers to make lots of margins on repairs & parts." EVs won't need anything like the same amount of repair and servicing, hence the bleating from traditional auto dealers and their whole supply chain who can see that their main source of revenue will start to be seriously eroded.
I have to say the whole Coda business model sounds like sheer genius to me.