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Electric Car Maker Think Falters and Ener1 Cuts Its Losses

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Updated: Lithium-ion battery maker Ener1 (s hev) reported earnings on Tuesday, and unveiled a worrisome note about its investment in electric car maker Think. Ener1 says because Think has had a longer than expected delay in restarting production of its electric cars, and because the EV market is moving more slowly than predicted, Ener1 has written down a $59.4 million impairment charge for its Think investment, delivering a total loss on the Think investment at $73.3 million. Ener1 has held a 32-percent stake in Think. Update: Ener1 had actually boosted that 32 percent stake up to holding 48 percent of the outstanding voting power at the time of the impairment charge, according to a filing.

Charles Gassenheimer, Ener1 chairman and CEO, said in the earnings call that last year Ener1 realized Think needed a new management team to analyze “the structural challenges, costs, usage patterns, consumer behavior and distribution for the Think and the EV industry more broadly.” After assessing the market, Ener1 came to the conclusion that electric vehicles are being deployed more slowly than expected, due to the high costs of electric cars and the slow roll-out of electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

As a result, Ener1 is stemming its losses on Think, and Gassenheimer says, “Ener1 will be guided by two principles, no additional funds will be provided to Think by Ener1, and Ener1 will try to avoid consolidating or increasing its equity exposure to Think.” In addition, Ener1 has also returned its shares to Think “in an effort to avoid any possible consolidation issues,” though it will maintain a minority equity position in a newly capitalized entity.

Gassenheimer also notes in the earnings call that Think has been unable to raise additional capital needed to restart production of its cars. The Norwegian business newspaper, Finansavisen, reported last month that Think was having financial trouble, had stopped production of its cars in Finland, had laid off 35 employees, and was looking for more funding.

As a result of its impairment charge for Think, Ener1 reported a net loss for the first quarter of $84.71 million, dramatically more than the $15.46 million net loss for the quarter the year earlier. Ener1 also adjusted its 2011 revenue to reflect the halted Think shipments. Ener1’s stock crashed on the news, dropping 20 percent and trading around $1.96.

I’ve reached out to Think to learn more and am waiting to hear back on the status of its production (of lack there of) in Finland and in Indiana.

Think had planned to start selling the Think City to U.S. consumers in mid-2011, projecting to sell between 2,000 to 3,000 cars via three to five stores in San Francisco; Southern California; New York City; Washington, D.C.; and Indianapolis. In December, Think said it had delivered its first U.S.-made Think City EVs — built at a factory in Elkhart, Ind. — to the state of Indiana for a government fleet, and Think planned to expand its Indiana factory in mid-2011 from 25 local workers to 100 people by the end of 2011 and more than 415 by the end of 2013.

Think had been looking for a loan from the DOE’s highly competitive Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Program, and Think had been expecting to hear more on the loan by the end of 2010. Think also formed a U.S. joint venture three years ago with Kleiner Perkins and RockPort Capital Partners.

The Think City is advertised to cost around $34,000 (before federal and state incentives), and about $22,000 with both federal and state subsidies. Here’s our test drive of the Think City. Maybe this is the closest it’ll come to hitting the roads in the U.S.:

8 Responses to “Electric Car Maker Think Falters and Ener1 Cuts Its Losses”

  1. They say my Think will be delivered tomorrow. That is three days from the time I wired the payment, not bad. I don’t see any long term problem here for me, Ener1 is still a stake holder, so parts should not be an issue.

    • Tom R Simenstad

      Parts? There is no oil or filters to change, no catalytic converter or exhaust pipe. The first service is at 40.000 miles; checking the brake pad wear. I’ll bet the first things you need to replace are the tires and they are off-the-shelf unlike the special dimension tires for the iMiEV.

      Tom R Simenstad
      2000 Th!nk City driver since June 2007

  2. I drove the car for three days. It was a great small commuter. It’s much nicer then the smart car. I liked the fact that it was total electric. I’ve been trying to get financing to purchase one. I hope TH!NK makes it. It’s a great car.

    • Richard B

      I drove it up the street…what a piece of junk for almost 40,000
      I thought one would have to be a idiot to buy one. It has nothing to offer over the Leaf or even the gas/electric volt for the same money. They are delusional or they are banking of peoples stupidity to buy it. Cheap cheap materials inside and out and very limited range for its size.

      • Tom R Simenstad

        Th!nk has better range than the Leaf and the Volt in electric mode. Th!nk has more luggage space than Leaf and Volt. Th!nk has rust free and dent free body panels.

  3. Tom Martin

    This proves that XP Vehicles predicted the market pain with 100% accuracy 12+ years ago. XP said that nobody will buy electric cars unless they can be powered without the need for infrastructure, an XP vehicle needs no charging infrastructure, and that the vehicles must cost under $25K, The XP vehicles start at $18,000.00. Every car company in Detroit attacked XP and hired lobbyists & politicians in DC to try to kill XP’s factory funding but they only delayed it. XP is coming and the facts support their design over any other. Now the market facts have produced hundreds of studies that show that XP was right about everything they said!

  4. What a shame; the Think was an interesting alternative to regular ‘metal’ cars. Just as matt finish paint is becoming ‘cool’ on high-end german cars the Polycarbonate finish on the Think would be coming into fashion vogue.

    The problem is that everyone wants EVs to be cheaper, faster, and better than traditional cars. It’s a shame that just better won’t do.