Think will launch production of its City commuter car at a new U.S. plant in early 2011.
The small battery car maker, THINK, is heading back to the U.S., and this time, it plans to produce its electric vehicles at an all-new plant going up in Elkhart, Indiana.
THINK, which emerged from bankruptcy protection last year, plans to invest $43 million in the Midwest facility, and hopes to start production of its urban commuter car, the THINK City, during the first quarter of 2011. When the facility reaches full capacity, in 2013, the maker hopes to be turning out as many as 20,000 battery-electric vehicles, or BEVs, annually.
The schedule is “pretty aggressive,” acknowledged THINK CEO Richard Canny, during an interview with TheDetroitBureau.com, “but the modular construction of the vehicle lets us get production up and running pretty quickly. We’ll hit 70% local content by 2013,” he added, suggesting, “it will be local content equal to or higher than many of the Big Three models.”
Founded in Norway, THINK has ridden the proverbial roller-coaster during its two-decade existence. It was purchased by Ford Motor Company, a decade ago, then sold off as part of the U.S. maker’s back-to-basics strategy. That led it to abandon the U.S. market, in 2002. Financial woes forced it into Chapter 11, but with rising industry interest in battery power, new investors came to the rescue last year. That includes Ener1, Inc., which now owns a 31% stake in the BEV maker.
Ener1’s Indianapolis-based subsidiary, EnerDel, will now provide the new lithium-ion, or LIon, batteries for the THINK City. That will allow the maker to boost range for the U.S. model to 100 miles, and increase the BEV’s top speed to at least 70 mph. An imported version of the City will go on sale this year, before the Indiana plant gets up-and-running.
Initially, Canny said the U.S. version of the THINK City will go for around $30,000, after factoring in a $7,500 federal tax credit. But he told TheDetroitBureau that his battery costs are expected to drop by at least 7% annually, while other efficiencies will help reduce the cost of the City by 3 to 4%. The goal, by mid-decade, would be to bring the price of the THINK City down, he said, to “the low-$20,000 range.”