New York Times
January 5, 2010
PR Newswire An Indiana facility may become the American manufacturing hub for the Think City electric car.
Think, the Norwegian electric carmaker, said on Tuesday that it will open its first American assembly plant in Elkhart, Ind.
The Think City, a battery-powered, two-seat hatchback, is set to begin rolling off the Indiana assembly line in early 2011, ramping up to a potential annual production of 20,000 cars by 2013. Think said it will spend more than $43 million to upgrade the Elkhart factory, which is expected to eventually employ more than 400 workers.
About 1,500 of the plastic-bodied cars are already on the street in Europe, and Think will begin selling the City in the United States later this year. The car will be imported from a Finland assembly plant until the Indiana factory opens in a former recreational vehicle factory.
Think’s investment in the Indiana facility depends in part on securing a United States Department of Energy loan guarantee to finance the project, according to Richard Canny, Think’s chief executive.
“Our plan is based around the D.O.E. loan,” Mr. Canny said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “If that didn’t happen we would be looking at a slower and shallower investment plan.”
Think has not disclosed the amount of the loan it is seeking.
Indiana was one of several states vying for the Think assembly plant. Tax incentives offered by Indiana and Elkhart’s proximity to automotive suppliers in neighboring Michigan helped clinch the deal, according Mr. Canny.
“We thought they had a great vision for developing an industrial base around electric transport, of creating the Silicon Valley of electric transportation,” he said. It also helped that Ener1, Think’s biggest shareholder and battery supplier, is headquartered in Indiana.
“The battery is the most significant cost of the car and you don’t want to have to ship it around the country,” said Mr. Canny.
Think, which also counts General Electric and the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers as investors, plans to sell the City in the United States for about $30,000 after incentives. The car has a range of about 112 miles and the American version of the City will have a top speed of at least 70 miles an hour, according to Think.
Mr. Canny said Think will initially target about five markets in the United States, including the San Francisco Bay Area.
The selection of the Indiana site comes as Think resumes production of the City in Europe after emerging from bankruptcy protection last August. The company subsequently shuttered its Norwegian assembly plant and contracted with Finland’s Valmet Automotive to produce the City.
It is awesome to see the mid-west remake with clean tech at the center. The American Renaissance is in the making. Smart Grid, Electric Cars, Energy Storage, and Smart Devices everywhere. The electrification of our economy goes from 75% to 100% in the next 20 years. In that journey the US reinvents work and life paradigms while dominating the 21st century. May you live in exciting times.