Norwegian carmaker Think, which hit a financial pothole at the end of 2008 and was forced to halt production of its electric vehicles just two months after it started, says it’s back and ready to start up production again. The Norwegian courts have approved the company’s debt settlement plan, and it can now exit court protection, taking it one step closer to producing its electric Think City two-seater and bringing it to the U.S., Think said in a statement released this morning.
That’s good news for Think, and just the latest in a very long negotiation process with investors and the Norwegian government. In June, according to Norwegian media reports, Think was able to raise NOK 250 million (nearly $39 million) in capital from investors and had moved closer to a deal with suppliers. This morning, the company says it has arranged about $47 million in new capital, which it says it will close next week, from investors including American auto tech company Ener1 (s HEV) (which owns battery maker EnerDel), Finnish carmaker Valmet Automotive, and Investinor, the Norwegian Government-backed investment fund.
Think says Ener1, which has already supplied Think with a $5.69 million bridge loan and a $30 million line of credit, is now the largest shareholder and will own about 31 percent of the company. Think says the investment also includes a battery supply deal between EnerDel and Think (they already have a $70 million battery supply contract) and a partnership between the two to manufacture and market electric drive trains. Investinor is putting in about NOK 30 million ($5 million).
Think says that as part of the deal with Valmet, it will produce its City EV at Valmet’s factory in Uusikaupunki, Finland, instead of at its own factory in Norway. That has led to Think laying off 85 employees at that factory. The manufacturing switch is in line with reports that said Think would relocate production but continue to produce cars in Europe.
However, Think is really setting its sights on the U.S. The company plans to open at least one factory, with a target of eventually churning out 60,000 EVs per year. It also aims to open a technical center in a yet-to-be-named state in the U.S., because as Think CEO Richard Canny said back in March: “The U.S. is quickly overtaking Europe as an attractive market for EVs and is an ideal location to engineer and build EVs.”