It’s well known that any sales material always uses the most attractive pricing option as a way of enticing customers to buy a product.


But is it helpful, confusing or downright misleading for an electric automaker to advertise an electric car for sale at more than $17,500 less than its own Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price? 

Enter Think USA. Earlier on this week it sent out a marketing email to those who had registered interest in its all-electric Think City.  In it the email proudly announced that the Think City was available “For as low as $17,995”. 

Recipients were encouraged to click on a link within the email which took them to Think’s own website, where a drop-down menu allows visitors to select the state they live in, displaying for the first time that the 65 mph two seat Think could end up costing a whole lot more to buy. 

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

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

In fact, for residents outside the 21 states listed on Think’s site, the all-electric city car would set them back a massive $28,995 after the $7,500 federal tax credit has been applied. 

In case you didn’t know, Federal Tax Credits towards the cost of buying a qualifying plug-in vehicle are applied retrospectively to your end-of-year tax bill. While the current administration is working to turn tax credits to purchase grants applicable at the time of purchase it has not yet been passed, meaning that anyone currently purchasing an electric car is stuck with the end-of year tax rebate. 

That translates to one simple fact: You have to pay the MSRP of $35,495 in full at the time of purchase. 

Because of that, we’ve always called out automakers who advertise their electric cars based not on MSRP but the price after federal tax incentives because it confuses consumers, but advertising a car on a nationwide level based on the lowest theoretical purchase price after all conceivable tax credits and rebates have been applied for a few states is plain wrong. 

We’re not sure the original intent of Think’s pricing page was to misinform, however. 

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

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

Instead, we think it is clear that Think genuinely wanted to provide its customers with as much information as possible about purchase prices in different states, but that somewhere between the inception and the execution things got a little out of hand. A wildly optimistic headline price was added to an email drop and the rest is, as they say, history. 

Nevertheless, we think Think needs to restructure its pricing page and advertising campaign to properly reflect its MSRP for the Think City, providing links to each state’s own incentives and credits. 

And in case you were wondering, there’s only two states where you can get a Think City for $17,995: California and Indiana. And to do so, you'll have to buy one of the many models currently being sold off cheaply by the company in its Model Year Inventory Clearance.