Bankrupt Norwegian Electric-Car Maker Think Gets Russian Owner

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Assembly of Think City electric cars, Elkhart, Indiana, Jan 2011

Assembly of Think City electric cars, Elkhart, Indiana, Jan 2011

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Well, it's official: After its fourth bankruptcy in two decades, the Norwegian electric-car maker Think Global has a new owner.

As rumored last week, he's lumber baron Boris G. Zingarevich, of St. Petersburg.

Zingarevich also happens to be the largest shareholder in Ener1, the lithium-ion cell company that had invested in the last round of Think restructuring. He sits on that company's board of directors. Ener1 wrote down the value of its its holdings in the electric-car maker before Think declared bankruptcy in late June.

According to his bio, Zingarevich is "an international serial entrepreneur" whose investments span "a wide range of new and traditional industries in a number of countries."

He is also the founder of Ilim Group, described as "a joint venture with the American company International Paper" that is the "largest timber products company in Russia."

What he now owns is a maker of two-seat electric cars whose design dates back more than a decade. At the moment, the cars are assembled by contract builder Valmet in Finland.

There's also an assembly facility in Elkhart, Indiana, set up to qualify the Think City as a U.S.-built car, making it eligible to be purchased with by local, state, and Federal agencies under some circumstances.

PHOTO GALLERY: Think City electric-car assembly plant, Elkhart, Indiana

The U.S. and U.K. arms of the company, Think North America and Think UK, remained in operation during Think Global's shutdown. Zingarevich has also acquired those entities.

Think City electric vehicle

Think City electric vehicle

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Some European commentators have already wondered whether Zingarevich's political ties to the Russian president and prime minister may prove an impediment to Think North America receiving low-interest loans from the U.S. Department of Energy to build more of the Think City in North America.

According to the press release, Think vehicles will be sold through a new company, Electric Mobility Solutions, based in Norway. A new structure for sales and service will be announced soon.

Production of a "refined version" of the Think City itself is scheduled to resume in the first quarter of 2012.

But can Think succeed in the U.S. market when it costs more than a 2011 Nissan Leaf, which has four doors, five seats, and is sold by a long-established automaker?

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.

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