Norwegian automaker Think is continuing its plans for resurgence, as production of the electric Think City with its thermoplastic body panels is now under way in Finland and proposals are firming up for a plant in the U.S.
A public hearing is set for Jan. 9 in Indiana on a request for a 10-year tax abatement for a plant in Goshen, Ind., to build the Think City for North American consumers.
The company has said it eventually plans to build up to 60,000 cars in the U.S.
Think has not announced a specific location yet, and has told officials in Indiana that it still is considering sites in three states.
But Charles Gassenheimer, chairman of Think's biggest investor, Ener1 Inc., told the Reuters news service in November that the U.S. plant would be in Indiana.
More specifics are due during the public hearing, but paperwork filed with the Elkhart (Ind.) County Council calls for an investment of more than $24.7 million and 415 new jobs by 2013.
Oslo-based Think has $47 million in fresh capital available to build its future operations.
It successfully emerged from court protection in Norway in August, thanks to new investments from venture capital and clean-energy companies, Think said in a news release.
New York-based Ener1 holds a 31 percent equity stake in the company. Ener1's Indianapolis-based lithium-ion battery company, EnerDel, will supply battery packs for Think cars.
Another investor, Finland's Valmet Automotive, took over production Dec. 10 of the Think City at its plant in Uusikaupunki, Finland. Valmet also builds the Fisker electric car and Porsche AG's Boxter and Cayman under contract.
Think previously made the City at a plant in Aurskog, Norway. That plant closed once the company lined up the investment from Valmet.
Think CEO Richard Canny said in a Dec. 10 news release that the company had back orders for 2,300 cars that it could deliver by the end of the year.
Our strategic alliance with Valmet Automotive is much more than just about assembly, he said. We are already reaping the benefits of Valmet's manufacturing and engineering, with time being taken out of the production process, more manufacturing done on site and an overall more-efficient industrial solution.
Think will remain a Norwegian company, Canny said, with headquarters, sales, marketing, design and engineering in Oslo.
The car, made with plastic body panels, has managed to survive despite previous predictions of its death.
The original firm, Pivco Industries AS, ran out of funding in the 1990s only to have Dearborn, Mich.-based Ford Motor Co. buy it in order to have an electric vehicle ready for the California market. But when the state altered emissions regulations that would have required most automakers to provide electric car models, Ford planned to shut down the unit.
Private financiers stepped in and bought the firm, then sold it to other private backers. Ener1, Valmet and other investors rescued the company again in 2009 and expanded production.
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