Uh Oh: CODA CEO Steps Down

Sounds like there’s trouble brewing at CODA Automotive, the startup which hopes to be one of the first to sell an all-electric sedan to mainstream consumers. Late Friday CODA announced that CEO Kevin Czinger will step down, and will be replaced by interim CEO Steven Heller. And just last week CODA’s Senior Vice President of Global Sales, Michael Jackson, resigned from the company.

The double-whammy is particularly unsettling for the company because of the timing: CODA plans to start selling its $45,000 electric sedan next month to consumers and fleets in California, and has said it will sell 14,000 sedans next year. The company just kicked off its marketing and outreach campaign last month and is in the process of raising another $125 million in financing with participation from Morgan Stanley, Czinger told me in August.

While I don’t have much insight into the reasons for the management changes, CODA states in its press release that the shift is part of its strategy to gear up for high volume manufacturing. That type of change isn’t uncommon at startups — the same thing has happened at thin film solar companies MiaSole and Solyndra. A lot of times these shifts come as a result of a power struggle between investors and management.

Czinger has been the public face of the company to date, and we did an interview and test drive with Czinger in August (see below). He’s a passionate guy, who wasn’t shy about publicly bashing competitors, and went out of his way to point out the range limitations of Nissan’s all-electric LEAF, which recently went on sale, and is CODA’s biggest competition.

We’ll see if all of CODA’s big plans are still on track, from its sales projections, to its partnerships in China, to its fund-raising. Watch our test drive (try to ignore the crackly microphone).


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