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Coda Automotive tries to revolutionize electric cars

September 9, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Apple revolutionized the way people buy personal computers with their many mall stores. Now a new electric car company is taking a similar approach.

Five years after the documentary "Who Killed the Electric Car," a follow up film is about to be released which looks at renewed interest in the technology by the auto industry. It's aptly named, "Revenge of the Electric Car."

If the EV is indeed getting revenge, you could say it's on display at the Tony Westfield Century City Shopping Center.

Start-up electric car maker Coda Automotive has switched on the open sign.

"Over a five-year period, it has a lower ownership cost than a Toyota Prius," said Chris Paulsen from Coda Automotive.

The retail boutique is where Los Angeles-based Coda is whetting appetites and taking $99 reservations for its four-door, plug-in electric car.

"We get thousands of people coming through here every day," said Paulsen. "We're right across the aisle from a movie theatre, so you get all kinds of people who are interested and curious."

The hallmark visible through the front window is a cutaway car showing how the battery and circuitry works. The future looks pretty high-tech from this view.

After you've been shown how the car works and all its technology, you probably then want to go for a test drive. That's the beauty of a shopping mall. Right downstairs in the garage are charging stations. The cars are charged up and ready to go for a spin.

The test drive is geared to impress, along with the car's range and charging time- claimed to be much better than other EVs. That selling point might be necessary to offset the car's potential sticker shock price of $45,000 before incentives.

So why spend so much more for this one? Coda says it has another edge for the environmentally minded.

"It gives you a chance to buy a car from a green company, and a company that only makes electric cars," said Paulsen.

Even though it's pricey, test drivers seem to like it.

"I think it's terrific," said test driver Alex Belay. "The response is fantastic."

Deliveries begin in December, a date already pushed back from earlier targets. It's not easy starting a car company from scratch after all. But having a distinctive retailing experience could help this green ride.

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