'Think' boss denies shut-down

The managing director of Norwegian electric car maker Think Nordic AS is denying published reports that the company plans to shut down its factory outside Oslo.

The managing director of Norwegian electric car maker Think Nordic AS is denying published reports that the company plans to shut down its factory outside Oslo. Instead, Bernd Winkler claims Think is banking on 'commitments' for a new four-passenger vehicle, production of which will continue in Norway.

"We are not closing the plant," Winkler insists. He says production already is underway on prototypes for the company's new "Think public" model, which it hopes will appeal to public transit agencies that would use the vehicle in so-called "car sharing" programs.

Winkler concedes that Think Nordic has "temporarily shelved" production of its "Think City" model, which was intended for private use. He claims new, upgraded versions of the cars would require a price tag of around EUR 30,000, or USD 35,000, and therefore weren't "economically viable."

The "Think City" model was designed largely because Ford Motor Co, which owned Think from 1999 to 2003, needed to meet requirements for emission-free vehicles in California. The car was dealt a blow when the requirements were eased, meaning Ford didn't need Think anymore, and later when Ford decided to scrap 365 Think City cars in the US instead of returning them to Norway for upgrading and resale.

Winkler claims Think's current owner, Kamkorp Microelectronics, had nothing to do with that decision and instead "negotiated for 15 months" to get the cars back to Norway, where hundreds of would-be customers are on waiting lists. Winkler also holds the title of European business director for KamKorp Group.

Now Winkler says Think Nordic has a new product that, for the first time, can be sold for more than it costs to build. The four-passenger "Think public," he says, can be sold for between EUR 16,000 and EUR 23,000, depending on options.

New 'lease on life'
While "not fully developed" as yet, he claims the "Think public" can give Think Nordic a new "lease on life" until finances might allow Think to resume production of cars for the private market. If what Winkler calls "commitments" from public transit agencies in Milan, Paris and Lisbon materialize into orders for the "Think public," the remaining 58 employees in Aurskog can make factory roll-out possible within 12 months.

Recent published reports maintained that Winkler and his boss, Kamal Siddiqi, were planning to phase out the Aurskog plant and move the remains of Think Nordic to Malaysia. Siddiqi, it's been written, faces creditor claims on other ventures from Australia to Arizona.

Winkler claims he knows nothing of financial troubles in Australia, and that "the crisis is over" in Norway. He says he now needs to reassure Norwegian politicians, who are keen to prevent a shutdown, that "nothing sinister" is going on at the company.

Government officials and even King Harald himself have been anxious to see Think succeed. Public funds were earlier invested in the project and members of the royal family have promoted it, all in an effort to put Norway at the forefront of environmentally friendly car production.