Tough luck for Ford – how a former subsidiary could revolutionize the auto industry

Think Ox

Think Ox

Think how great it would be to have an all-electric car with a good driving performance, that meets all safety standards, has an adequate range and looks stylish. That’s finally become reality at an affordable price. The Think City is an all-electric two-seater which has a top speed of 65 mph, a range of 120 miles and all established safety features such as airbags and ABS as well as a comfortable cabin. Besides, the Think City is eco-friendly as it has zero tailpipe emissions, a high efficiency and is 95% recycable. Driving a Think City can be as much of a pleasure and as  convenient as driving a conventional car. It offers all features we are used to such as air conditioning, electric windows and doors as well as power steering. Ford Motor Co. that owned Think from 1999 to 2003 has contributed decisively to achieve the Think City’s high comfort and security levels by pouring $150 million into the Think City project. The company was founded in 1991 in Norway as Pivco (Personal Independent Vehicle Company) and produced several electric vehicles on a small scale. Back in 1999, Ford took over the company due to California’s zero-emissions vehicle policy. Ford lagged behind GM with its EV1 in terms of non-polluting cars and considered Pivco as a viable tool to meet the requirements by the Californian Zero Emission Vehicle mandate. However – lacking farsightedness – Ford gave up the company after major automakers and the U.S. federal government succeeded in modifying the California mandate. The company was sold for a song to a Swiss company, went bankrupt in 2006 and was then bought by investors around the Norwegian businessman Jan-Olaf Willums who is the CEO of Think Global today. Several companies such as Porsche Consulting helped to streamline the production at Think’s assembly plant in Norway. The final assembly of the car is very efficient and simple as there are only 580 parts to be put together and the the annual capacity is about 10,000 units. This number could be increased up to 50,000 units per year with the opening of an assembly plant in the U.S. 

Think City

Think Global has reached out across the Atlantic and started a partnership with leading clean-tech investors and plans to launch a version of its Think City as early as 2009 and is expected to built a new factory within the USA – probably in Southern California where they should be sold first.

The storage technology for the electricity is the only remaining major obstacle. Battery technology still lags behind the needs of the electric vehicle manufacturers, however, the technology is at a stage of development that allows mass-production of electric vehicles and provides a fair range at a good speed.  The car is especially suitable for city dwellers and commuters who barely manage to get 50 during the commute hours and most of the time, the distances they have to cover are within the driving range of electric cars. However, the lithium-ion batteries that’ll power the car will be fairly expensive and account for almost half of the costs of the entire car. Therefore, the Think City would actually cost about $35,000 which reduces its competitiveness with conventional cars. But Think Global has found a solution to get their cars on the streets. They made up a totally new concept of selling cars and leasing the batteries. The cars will be sold almost entirely via the Internet for a subsidized price ranging between $20,000 and $25,000. Owners will pay a monthly fee for the “Mobility Pack” which includes car insurance, battery maintenance and replacement costs so that Think City cars will always run using the latest battery technology.

The Think City is already on sale in Norway and sales in Sweden, the UK and Denmark will start soon. The company’s CEO Jan-Olaf Willums wants the car to go on sale in the U.S. in 2009. Willums hopes for government subsidies, tax rebates and other incentives to make the all-electric car more attractive. And even without government support. The owners of Think electric cars could break even in just a few years with gasoline above $4 a gallon.

Think has also come up with a few other models, amongst the five-seater Think Ox and the cool Think open whose roof has been removed.

Think Open

Think Open

Think Global has proven that electric cars can keep up with conventional cars in terms of safety, reliability, comfort and driving performance. The Think Ox combines innovative design with eco-friendly and economical technology. To sum up, the concept and the technology are brilliant and are a viable alternative to conventional cars in urban areas. We can expect several concepts similar to this one to come up in the not-too-distant future. Mobility doesn’t necessarily have to become ever more expensive. Flexible and innovative solutions are already available, reliable and economical. It’ll take just a few more years until the competitiveness of electric cars has increased as a result of mass-production and an improved infrastrucuture.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/motoring/2008058152_thinkcar18.html

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The electric car – the last sign of hope for troubled U.S. car makers?
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2 Comments

Filed under Economy, Environment, Uncategorized

2 responses to “Tough luck for Ford – how a former subsidiary could revolutionize the auto industry

  1. Pingback: Gasoline prices in the U.S. have recently hit record levels, but there are many countries where drivers are paying much more « What Matters

  2. Pingback: WTO talks collapse is adverse for all… « What Matters

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