U.S. Electric Car Industry Hits Super-Sized Speed Bumps

December 12th, 2012
Tesla Model S, stranded

The "unpluggable" Model S

The Tesla that couldn’t move.

The Fisker fires.

The A123 bankruptcy.

The CODA Automotive layoffs.

It’s been a rough end to 2012 for the U.S. electric vehicle industry, but all hope is not lost. Maybe Chinese companies can step in and take some ownership in an effort to right what sometimes looks like a quickly sinking ship.

Of course, not all of the EV news is bad. Tesla continues to make great strides in production of the Model S, which has managed to take home at least one major award. However, a rash of negativity has not been welcome news to proponents of electric propulsion.

One week ago an Autoweek reviewer wasn’t able to review the Model S, because the charging cable wouldn’t come loose from the car’s port. That’s right, he couldn’t get the car unplugged. Pretty simple way to bring down an $80,000 car, huh?

Fisker had a bit more serious problem on its hands earlier this year when it dealt with the issue of spontaneous combustion. More than once.

More recently, battery maker A123 Systems (maker of the Chevy Volt battery) filed for bankruptcy after securing almost a quarter of a billion dollars in government stimulus funds. In a court-sanctioned bidding war for the assets of the lithium battery maker, Chinese auto parts maker Wanxiang Group has prevailed and will take ownership of all assets except for the company’s U.S. military contracts. A lot of folks are up in arms about this development, but fans of EVs should rejoice, because it means a fresh injection of plenty of cash to keep Volts running off the assembly line and should ultimately lead to reduced prices.

Coda EV

California startup CODA Automotive has reportedly laid off more than 50 employees as the maker of the slow-selling electric CODA sedan (above) tries to keep its doors open. Not helping its case, the CODA scored only 2 stars in frontal crash tests from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. To be fair, though, it scored 4 stars overall.

An interesting side note: The majority of CODA manufacturing happens in China.

Should Chinese companies continue to step in and invest in the U.S. electric vehicle industry?

-tgriffith

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