Electric Car Darwinisim: Th!nk Falters

Electric carmaker Th!nk was denied its request to the Norwegian government for loan guarantees to weather the current economic crisis. The denial may have sealed the company’s fate.

Th!nk requested an estimated $15 to $30 million bailout. According to the company, those short-term guarantees, plus a temporary work stoppage and a layoff of 50 to 70 percent of the company’s 250 employees, was necessary to keep the business afloat. The government funding could have enabled Th!nk to stay on track for launching the Th!nk City, a zero-emission micro car, in European and US markets in the next year or two. The Th!nk City is capable of reaching 65 miles per hour and traveling up to 110 miles on a single charge.

“There are many companies that are in a demanding financial situation,” Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry Rikke Lind told Reuters. “The government cannot go in on the ownership side or provide loans to specific companies in today’s situation.”

Th!nk requested the aid citing “urgent financial distress” due to a shortage of working capital. In the midst of the current global economic crisis, automotive start-ups are finding it increasingly difficult to secure private investment dollars.

“We are in a very serious situation.”

Richard Canny
chief executive officer,Th!nk

In a case of electric car Darwinism, niche players like Th!nk, Tesla and Miles Electric Vehicles could fall by the wayside—while major auto manufacturers pursuing full battery-electric vehicles, most notably Nissan, could assume a dominant role in the burgeoning electric car market.

Th!nk halted production on Monday with hopes to resume normal operations soon after the government loan was approved on Tuesday. Now there’s no telling when or if the plant will begin building cars again. “We are in a very serious situation,” said Richard Canny, chief executive officer, in a news conference this morning. He said the company will probably not survive without government intervention.

Just last week, Th!nk reported that it has been building eight to ten Th!nk City cars per day since October, with a full-scale production target of 44 vehicles per day by mid-2009. Those plans for growth—an oddly optimistic outlook coming one week before the company predicts its own demise—indicate a mismatch between high hopes and grim realities for today’s electric car companies.

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  • looby

    That’s a real nice looking car. And in Europe, gas prices are much higher. Wierd. Is Rick Wagoner secretly running this company?

  • Bryce

    That’s sad, though understand their reasoning. Think isn’t exactly a staple of the Norgwegian industrial base….in fact, last time I checked, Norway isn’t particularly known for its industrial sector. Those titles would go to the U.S. China, Japan, Korea, and Germany for the most part with India coming in with their own cars. If any of those countries let their car industries fail, I would be very surprised.

  • Ross Nicholson

    Think should appeal to the Obama administration for some help and to the US Federal Reserve. The US Fed is buying up stocks and bonds from distressed companies and not all of them are American.

  • Richard B

    I live in Norway and I´m following the case closely, pluss calling every goverment department that are relevant to the case. I´m optimistic. I believe that this is just a little dance the goverment has play so that they can “outsource” this bailout to the non-political investment branches of the state.

    In the meantime the speculation abroad continiues without all the updates that are comming in and it is hurting the image of the electric car all togheter. Currently Think is the only highway, crash-tested car in the world that is for sale in it´s class, so it would be a huge problem for our goverment that is the greenest we´ve had to let Think tank.