Coda Names Former GM Executive Philip Murtaugh CEO

Coda Automotive Inc., the electric-car maker backed by billionaire Philip Falcone, named Philip Murtaugh chief executive officer as the company prepares to introduce its sedan this year.

Murtaugh helped establish General Motors Co.’s operations in China and is a former executive at GM partner Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp., Santa Monica, California-based Coda said today in an e-mailed statement.

Coda delayed the start of deliveries of its battery-powered sedan until the second half of this year, from earlier plans for December, after former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. executive Kevin Czinger resigned as CEO. Steven “Mac” Heller, a former Goldman Sachs co-head of investment banking, has served as interim CEO since November and now becomes executive chairman.

“Over the next six months, my focus is going to be bringing the car to market,” Murtaugh said today on a conference call with reporters. “We’re going to be looking at expanding our sales and marketing activities and planning for future growth.”

The Coda sedan will cost $37,400 after federal tax credits of as much as $7,500. Coda is targeting production of 14,000 sedans by the end of this year.

Coda will sell the car through company-owned sales outlets and through online orders rather than using a traditional dealer network, Murtaugh said. Coda will give more details about the retailing plans and its aims to sell the sedan in China at a later date, he said.

Falcone, Paulson Investors

Falcone’s Harbinger Capital Partners was among the investors who participated in Coda’s offering of $76 million of Series D preferred shares, the company said in a Jan. 6 statement. The offering brought Coda’s total invested capital to more than $200 million.

Other Coda investors include former U.S. Treasury Secretary and Goldman Sachs CEO Henry Paulson; Miles Rubin, founder and co-chairman; Thomas McLarty, former chief of staff for President Bill Clinton; private investment manager Aeris Capital AG, and private-equity firm Riverstone Holdings LLC.

Coda’s five-passenger model can travel as far as 120 miles on a full charge of its lithium battery pack, according to the company’s website. The average charge time is six hours.

The sedan is based on a Mitsubishi Motors Corp. chassis and made in Harbin, China, through a partnership with Hafei Motor Co. Final assembly takes place in California.

Lithium cells for the sedan’s batteries are supplied by LIO Energy Systems, a joint venture between Coda and China’s Tianjin Lishen Battery Co.

Coda and Lishen are considering sites in Ohio for building a battery-making facility, contingent on a loan from the U.S. Department of Energy, according to Coda’s website.

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