Shopping for an EV? Head to the mall

Electric-car startup Coda Automotive opened up its first Apple-inspired retail outlet in a Los Angeles mall.

Liane Yvkoff
Liane Yvkoff is a freelance writer who blogs about cars for CNET Car Tech. E-mail Liane.
Liane Yvkoff
2 min read
The Coda Experience Center at the Westfield Century City Shopping Center in Los Angeles. CODA Automotive

It takes the sales pressure out of shopping for a new car, and it beats the hell out of going to the local auto row. Electric-car startup Coda Automotive opened up its first auto showroom at the Westfield Century City Shopping Center in Los Angeles. The result? A clean, well-lighted place to buy a car.

A mall may seem an unlikely place to buy a $35,200 electric car, but the little-known EV player is taking a page from the Apple marketing playbook to establish its brand. Officially called the Coda Experience Center, the retail outlets have a young, hip vibe like the Apple Stores they mimic, and create a laid-back environment for consumers to learn about and test new products without the hard sell from a cheesy salesman.

But in place of a Genius Bar, shoppers will find an Electric Vehicle Bar, which provides computers and interactive displays to educate consumers on electric cars. And rather than candy-white minimalist decor, the Experience Center features eco-tech building materials, such as salvaged wood from Utah's Lucin Cutoff Railroad Trestle, energy-efficient lighting, neutral concrete flooring, formaldehyde free plywood, and recycled stainless steel to keep with the environmentally responsible theme.

Shoppers will be able to sign up for test drives in the store. Or if they've booked a test-drive online, they can show up for their scheduled appointment to drive the vehicles parked in the garage. "Gurus" will roam the store to help customers with any EV questions, and like most retail sellers, they won't haggle on price.

The flashy sales model may be just what the EV industry needs to boost its image and appeal among car buyers, who seem to associate zero-emissions driving only with left coast greenies. Coda Automotive has been something of a dark horse in the running, thanks to delayed production dates and a high sales price. Its new image could be a game changer, but will it be enough to battle with more established EV players?

With a 36kWh battery and a 150-mile driving range, the five-seat electric sedan has some impressive stats. But unlike the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i, the Coda doesn't offer a Level 3 DC fast-charging option. However, its 6.6kWh onboard charger is twice as fast as the Leaf's, which means it can charge an empty battery to full capacity in 6 hours, or up to 50 miles of driving range in just two hours.

And the Coda offers a level of service that will have most luxury car buyers jealous: should the Coda need repair, a valet will come to your house to pick up, fix, and return the vehicle.