Posted: 09/13/2011 01:00:32 AM PDT
Officials from Amports Inc. and startup Coda Automotive Inc. announced Monday that the two have closed a deal to open a final assembly plant in Benicia.
The Los Angeles company also is in talks to open a Bay Area showroom, but details have not been released, company officials said.
Meanwhile, the Benicia operation will generate 50 jobs, with 10,000 to 14,000 cars expected to roll through next year.
Benicia will be the latest Bay Area city manufacturing electric cars. Palo Alto-based Tesla Motors Inc. is partnering with Toyota to build its next-generation electric sedan at a factory in Fremont.
City officials said luring a company on the forefront of the green manufacturing industry was a significant coup.
"We have felt for a long time as a city that it is best to work in a collaborative and cooperative way with businesses in order to achieve our strategic goals ... ," Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson said. "And today is proof positive of that collaborative effort."
Ironically, the city's prosperity remains closely tied to fossil fuel, with Valero Energy Corp. operating an oil refinery there. But Patterson said the city of 28,000 also can be a leader in the transition from petrochemical to alternative-energy industries.
Coda plans to ship its nearly finished "clean" cars from China to the Bay Area. The sedans will then be trucked from the Port of Oakland to Benicia, where major drive-train components -- including Coda's 12-volt battery -- will be installed by Amports technicians.
The zero-emission cars will have a range of up to 150 miles, company officials said. Pricing will start at about $45,000 before federal and state incentives. The four-door, five-passenger sedans are expected to hit the market by year's end.
Coda officials called the partnership with Amports -- an automotive processing services company -- "long-term," but did not give details of the contract's terms.
The companies confirmed the deal at a press conference Monday at Amports. Among those in attendance were Coda CEO Phil Murtaugh, Amports Senior Vice President Jim Triplett, Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, and local elected officials.
Dozens of Coda workers encouraged by the partnership's prospects also attended.
Coda CEO Phil Murtaugh led reporters and local elected officials on a brief tour of the plant, demonstrating how the Coda battery's heating and cooling systems work.
Murtaugh said the company -- which has about 200 employees, mostly in southern California -- is still building its dealer network.
"Our first flagship store is open in L.A. and we are currently looking in the Bay Area for a second flagship store," said Murtaugh, who spent more than 30 years with General Motors before joining Coda eight months ago.
Murtaugh said he expects about half of Coda's sales to be through "fleet" sales.
Coda has designed its sedan to be plugged into standard household outlets. The batteries will take about six hours to fully charge, the company says.
Rep. Miller drove a Coda prototype Monday, later calling the experience "fascinating."
"We are excited that Coda decided to pick California as a launching place ... ," Miller said. "At a time when America is fixated on the idea of jobs immediately and jobs in the future, it really is through the kind of innovation that Coda brings -- in this case to the transportation field -- that's going to drive jobs."
Contact staff writer Tony Burchyns at email@example.com or (707) 553-6831.