When I test drove the all-electric Think City, built by 20-year-old Norwegian auto maker Think, back in August, it was unclear then how Think would tackle the U.S. market. But since then Think’s new Chief Marketing Officer Michael Lock has been doing interviews about Think’s strategic U.S. plans — he tells Plug-In Cars (hat tip Autoblog Green) that Think 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 to 5 stores in San Francisco, Southern California, New York, Washington DC and Indianapolis.
The Think City will cost $34,000 (before federal and state incentives) Lock tells Plug-In Cars, and Think doesn’t plan to compete head-on with other EV automakers, but is marketing the Think City as a family’s 2nd or 3rd car, focused on urban environments. Lock tells Jay Leno on Jay Leno’s Garage video show that the price should be about $22,000 with both federal and state subsidies, and that Think plans to bring a 4-seater to the U.S. market, too.
More ambitious plans for the U.S. market have relied on federal support, Lock told us in an interview in September, and Think expects a final yea or nay on its loan application with the Department of Energy 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, and has requested low-interest loans under the DOE’s highly competitive Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Program to build a plant in Elkhart, Indiana.
Think has said it would invest $43.5 million into improving and equipping the Elkhart plant to achieve annual production capacity of 20,000 vehicles at the facility by 2013. Right now “the plant really is an empty box,” Lock told us in late September. So if Think is going to hit its target of beginning production early in 2011, he explained, then work on “long lead-time items” at the facility and efforts to get a team in place needs to start now.
Think has now started on a “cred-building effort,” which will involve expanding the company’s U.S. focus beyond engineering and government relations, “really putting roots down,” in the form of sales, marketing and service operations, and communicating to prospective buyers that Think electric vehicles sold in Europe have already logged some 30 million miles. Hence Lock’s recent outreach. Watch Jay Leno’s test drive below, and our own test drive for our Green Overdrive show:
[protected-iframe id=”b5a05c5097659165c017380362164c8a-14960843-33104822″ info=”http://widget.nbc.com/videos/nbcshort_at.swf?CXNID=1000004.10045NXC&widID=4727a250e66f9723&clipID=1259680&showID=78″ width=”384″ height=”283″]
For more research on GigaOM Pro (subscription required):