The Electric Car Startup That Just Went Bankrupt Never Got A Federal Loan

coda electric car, sept 2010The Coda Sedan.

Coda Automotive, the electric car manufacturer that filed for bankruptcy Wednesday morning, never received the $334 million loan it had hoped to secure from the Department of Energy (DOE), unlike comparable green auto startups Fisker Automotive and Tesla Motors.

Coda submitted its application to the DOE’s Advanced Technologies Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program (ATVM) in June 2010.

Its plan was to build a plant in Columbus, Ohio, to manufacture lithium-ion batteries for Coda and create more than 1,000 jobs, the Columbus Dispatch reported at the time.

As of November 2010, the small automaker was still hoping for that federal cash, interim CEO Steven Heller told Nick Chambers at Plugincars: “New companies live on financing — we’re entrepreneurs, this is our money. We’re very careful about it, but we know that new products take love and passion and a little bit of cash.”

The ATVM program approved five loans between April 2010 and March 2011 for Fisker Automotive, Ford, Tesla Motors, Nissan, and The Vehicle Production Group, LLC.

In March 2012, Coda withdrew its loan application. Senior Vice-President Forrest Beanum had described the request as in a “holding pattern,” and told Autoblog Green it had waited long enough: “We waited more than two years and our business continued to evolve past the point where the application where it stood with the Department of Energy made any sense for our business model.”

Coda did raise some $300 million in private equity, but managed to sell only about 100 cars before declaring bankruptcy.

Of the automakers that did receive loans through the ATVM program, only Fisker has been a failure. The company is in deep financial distress, has stopped production of its cars, fired three quarters of its workforce earlier this month, and appears headed for bankruptcy.

(The least well-known of loan recipients, The Vehicle Production Group, LLC, received $50 million. The startup builds wheelchair accessible vans that can run on natural gas, and is alive and well.)

The Department of Energy did not reply to a request for comment.

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