Before falling into a financial crisis, Think was on its sixth generation of the Think City, a $28,000 two-seater car with a maximum speed of 65 miles per hour—and a driving range of 120 miles.
At the end of 2008, the Norwegian small electric carmaker known as Think was facing its demise. The 20-year-old company, formerly owned by Ford, had experienced two previous bankruptcies and was in the middle of its third. It was producing only about 10 cars a day before it laid off more than half its 250 employees and indefinitely extended its Christmas 2008 production shutdown. By March, the Wall Street Journal published Think’s obituary as “a cautionary tale about automotive start-ups” that require huge amounts of capital to succeed.
A few months later, US-based Ener1—the parent company of battery-maker EnerDel— gave Think another lease on life by first granting a bridge loan and then agreeing to invest about $18 million and convert $3 million in debt into preferred shares of the automaker. Ener1 now holds 31 percent stake in the company.
EnerDel and Think also agreed to enter into a new long-term battery supply agreement as part of the transaction. EnerDel received certain exclusive rights for the supply of batteries for Think’s current and upcoming new electric vehicle models. Other investors include Finland’s Valmet Automotive—which builds Boxter and Cayman models for Porsche, and will manufacture the Fisker Karma luxury plug-in hybrid.
With those three pieces in hand—a vehicle, a battery pack, and a manufacturing facility—Think has moved production of the plastic-bodied Think City, capable of about 120 miles of range, to Valmet’s facility in Finland. The company is working to fill more than 2,000 orders of the car, and is aiming for annual production of 5,000 units—mostly for fleet customers. But this appears to be only the beginning of the big plans for the small electric car company.