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Valmet rethinks City

Lateral thinking: Think City production fires up at Valmet on December 10.

Think restarts City EV production in Finland as Valmet assumes manufacturing control

Th!nk logo14 Dec 2009

By MARTON PETTENDY

SCANDINAVIAN electric car-maker Think has recommenced production of its pioneering City mini-car, this time at the Finnish manufacturing facility of the rejuvenated company’s new minor shareholder and strategic industrial partner, Valmet Automotive.

The Norwegian EV maker suspended production of the City hatchback and laid off 50 per cent of its workforce at its Aurskog plant in Norway in December 2008, citing “urgent financial distress”.

Now, following an investment of about €3 million ($A4.83m) by Valmet - which also produces the mid-engined Boxster and Cayman for Porsche - production has commenced at the automotive engineering and manufacturing specialist’s Uusikaupunki factory in Finland.

Think CEO Richard Canny said that first fleet customer deliveries of the born-again City, one of the world’s first urban EVs, will take place before Christmas, before Think expands on its 2300-strong order bank in Europe and beyond.

“This is a very significant day for Think,” he said. “We are back in production and I am so pleased that some of our very loyal customers can look forward to delivery of their long-awaited Think City before Christmas.

“The order bank stands at around 2300 vehicles and our first priority is to deliver to these customers now that our vehicles are rolling off the production line again. Our next priority is to build on this order book with continued expansion in Europe and around the world.

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“Our strategic alliance with Valmet Automotive is much more than just about assembly. We are already reaping the benefits of Valmet’s expertise in manufacturing and engineering, with time being taken out of the production process, more manufacturing done on site and an overall more efficient industrial solution, from product development support right through to final assembly,” said Mr Canny.

The recommencement of production at Valmet caps off a year of restructuring at Think, with the 18-year-old EV company attracting new investors before announcing its recapitalisation earlier in 2009.

This year also saw Think make a series of senior executive appointments from the automotive and clean-tech sectors, win several major drivetrain supply contracts and begin sales of the City in key European markets.

Sales of Think’s City have begun in Austria, Denmark, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland, with a majority of sales going to municipal authorities and utility partners, supported by government incentives.

Riding on a 1970mm wheelbase and measuring a tiny 3120mm long, 1604mm wide and 1548mm high, the City first entered production in 2000 and was the world’s first EV to meet European CE certification and EU homologation (M1) requirements.

While a rash of new EVs such as Nissan’s Leaf will soon be a reality, according to Think the City is one of just two EVs to be crash-tested and highway-certified globally, apart from the Tesla Roadster.

The two-seater or 2+2 City, around just 100 examples of which were built, offers a top speed of 105km/h, 0-80km/h acceleration in 16 seconds and a round-town driving range of 210km. Before options in Norway, it costs 199,000 Norwegian Kroner ($A37,800), plus about NKR975 ($A185) per month to lease the battery.

“Valmet already has expertise in the EV industry, but with the start of industrial production of the Think City at our cutting-edge facilities in Finland, we aim to become a leader in the industry,” said Valmet Automotive president Ilpo Korhonen.

“The start of production is a very important step for both Think and Valmet, and we aim to grow our strategic alliance alongside the growth of the Think brand around Europe as more deliveries of the eagerly awaited Think City are made in the coming weeks.”

A subsidiary of the Metso Group, Valmet has produced more than 100,000 vehicles in Finland over the past 40 years, including the Boxster/Cayman and, from this year, the Garia golf car. From 2010, Valmet’s production facility will also produce the Fisker Karma electric sports sedan.

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