Right now Norwegian automaker Think is in the midst of Norway's version of Chapter 11 bankruptcy. All operations have ceased at Think's plant in Aurskog, Norway. Currently, Think is operating off of interim funding in the amount of $6 million dollars, but permanent funding is non- existent. Think produced 10 vehicles in December and carries a back log of 1,500 orders. It comes as a surprise that Think recently announced plans to build a factory in the U.S. and are in fact scouting out sites at this moment.
Think is searching for a U.S. site to produce vehicles. They currently have their eyes set on eight different states in the U.S., including Michigan. Final site determinations will be announced later this month as the company heads to Washington to seek funding from the Department of Energy. The DOE is offering funding to companies that provide advanced technologies. However, the budget of the DOE is limited and many car companies have already applied for funding.
Think comes to Washington with a plan to build 16,000 cars annually and employ 300 workers initially and later expanding to employ over 1,000 workers. Think hopes to build a factory at an undisclosed site. The factory will be 60,000 square feet and will include a tech center and tesing facility. They hope to employ 70 onsite engineers. they hope to begin production at the U.S. facility in 2010 and sell 2,500 vehicles that year with additional capacity coming in the years to follow.
If funding is approved, Think will return to the U.S. market. Previously, Think sold vehicles through Ford dealerships earlier in this decade.
Funding is the issue. Think has not announced how much funding they wish to secure. They must also take care of the bankruptcy issue in Norway before any funding can be approved. However, they are optimistic about growing sales of EVs and feel that the time is right to enter the U.S. market. Think hopes to produces and sell the Think City in the U.S. for a target price of $20,000 after incentives and rebates.
If approved for funding, construction on the Think factory will start in April of May. Think has stated that they will need to sell 5,000 vehicles each year to break even. Combined production during the 17 year Think history has only totaled 2,000.
Thinks goals appear lofty, but estimates put Hybrid and EV sales at 4.5 million by 2016 with over 2 million of those sales within the U.S.
Look for updates to this story as the March 31st DOE (Department of Energy) meetings conclude.