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Electric car startup Coda raises $76 million towards pre-IPO goal

Electric-car startup Coda announced it has raised $76 million of a planned $125 million in what should be the company’s final round of financing before it tries for an IPO.

Coda wants its public offering to become a reality this year, a Coda spokesman told VentureBeat last fall. That may all hinge on the success of its first car launch — an all-electric, five-seat sedan priced at $44,900 before government incentives. The car was initially planned for launch last month, then pushed back to the third quarter of this year.

This brings the total raised to $201 million. As of September, the company had raised $60 million towards the current round. Investors in this round include new investors Harbinger Capital Partners and Riverstone Holdings and existing investors Aeris Capital (which led Coda’s third round of fundraising) and founding venture backers Angeleno Group. The company’s founder and co-chairman Miles Rubin and interim CEO and Steven “Mac” Heller also invested.

Still, Coda still has a lot to prove. It has not yet announced a replacement for its former CEO Kevin Czinger, a Goldman Sachs alum who stepped down “by mutual” consent in November; the company cited wanting new leadership with strong manufacturing experience as Coda moves into full-scale production of the car. Interim CEO Steven “Mac” Heller is currently at the reins (also a former Goldman executive), and told VentureBeat he is not in the running for the permanent position.

It also delayed the release of its sedan, which was initially to debut last month and go head-to-head with Big Auto contenders like the all-electric Nissan Leaf and partially electric Chevrolet Volt. It’s unclear whether that will adversely affect sales of the car, though.

As a newcomer to the scene, Coda will initially sell in California, with Apple-like stores with a no-pressure sales environment that it says will allow wandering mall shoppers to get their questions about electric cars answered. The company will also has invested $100 million in equity in a joint venture with Chinese battery company Lishen. The partnership produces battery which has prompted debate over whether or not it is a Chinese-made car.

Coda is ramping up for a rather aggressive sales target of 14,000 vehicles sold in the first year of production, 40 to 50 percent of which it says will will be from fleet sales. But there are some concerns about whether or not it’ll hit those goals.

Industry watchers have been skeptical of Coda considering its car is priced about $12,000 more than its better-known competitor, the Nissan Leaf. The sedan will cost nearly $45,000 before federal and state tax incentives. However, the company — and some analysts — argue that demand for electric cars in the market is currently greater than available supply, so Coda could steal sales from buyers too impatient to wait for the Leaf, which is currently is backlogged with about 20,000 reservations (which are now closed).