Twenty-year-old Norwegian auto maker Think has been selling its electric car the Think City in Europe for a while, but the scale of its U.S. production and sales plans have been more murky. Regardless of how aggressive the company will be in the U.S., it’s kicking off in the U.S. market Thursday morning by delivering its first U.S.-made Think City EVs — built at its factory in Elkhart, Ind. — to the state of Indiana for a government fleet.
Expect Think to tackle fleets like the state of Indiana’s first, then the second car market, instead of going head-to-head over early adopter consumers with Nissan’s LEAF and GM’s Volt. In terms of a consumer launch, Think has said it plans to start selling the Think City to U.S. consumers in mid-2011, looking to sell between 2,000 to 3,000 cars via 3-5 stores in San Francisco, Southern California, New York, Washington, D.C. and Indianapolis.
The U.S.-made Think City uses a U.S.-made, lithium ion battery technology, courtesy of Ener1 and Ener1′s factory in Indiana. The Think City will cost around $34,000 (before federal and state incentives), and about $22,000 with both federal and state subsidies, in the U.S. Think says in this latest release it will expand the Indiana factory in mid-2011. The factory has just 25 local workers today, and Think states it will have 100 people by the end of 2011 and more than 415 by the end of 2013.
That sounds like Think isn’t necessarily betting on more federal support any time soon. More ambitious plans for the U.S. market have relied on approval of a loan from the DOE’s highly competitive Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Program. Think told us it expected to hear more on the loan by the end of 2010. Think, in which battery maker Ener1 holds an approximately 32 percent stake, formed a U.S. joint venture two years ago with Kleiner Perkins and RockPort Capital Partners.
Here’s our test drive of the Think City:
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