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EV-maker Think rescued from bankruptcy – again

Recharged: Troubled EV company Think will be back on the streets early next year with its City EV.

Russian tycoon saves Think from ruin, production to re-start in first quarter of '12

27 Jul 2011

STRUGGLING electric vehicle maker Think Global has been rescued from ruin – for the fourth time – by Russian businessman Boris Zingarevich for an undisclosed sum.

Mr Zingarevich is a major investor in and director of Ener1, a lithium-ion battery manufacturer and one of Think’s major secured creditors when it filed for bankruptcy on June 22 following a production halt in February.

A new company, Electric Mobility Solutions, has been formed in Norway to market Think products and is working on a new sales and service network. Production is scheduled to recommence in the first quarter of next year.

The new company acquires Think’s North American and British subsidiaries, which were exempt from bankruptcy proceedings, as part of the deal.

The pioneering Norwegian EV manufacturer, which has been developing vehicles since the early 1990s, was owned by Ford from 1999 to 2003 when the original Think City car was produced in small numbers.

 center imageLeft: Boris Zingarevich.

Since Ford walked away, Think developed prototypes under two different owners but did not put anything into production until 2007, when it launched a redesigned version of its City before halting production again in late 2008 due to financial difficulties, which is when Mr Zingarevich’s Ener1 stepped in with a bridging loan.

The company was restructured and in 2009 secured funding from several sources including venture capitalists, Ener1 taking a 31 per cent stake and Finland-based outsourced vehicle and convertible roof manufacturer Valmet Automotive – which builds the cars – becoming a minor shareholder.

The new car went back on sale powered by 23kWh lithium-ion or 24kWh ‘Zebra Sodium’ batteries that provided the two or four-seat Think City with a 160km range. Its 34kW motor was good for a top speed of 110km/h.

US production even started in Indiana, where the company delivered its 15 first American-built cars last December for use in the Indiana state government fleet.

It wasn’t enough though, and after selling little more than 1000 cars in 2010, the company ran out of money again early this year, resulting in 55 employees being laid off at Valmet’s production facility.

Recognising the small volumes involved, Valmet’s announcement said: “The bankruptcy of Think Global AS has only a marginal impact on Valmet Automotive’s turnover this year.”

In addition to Think City EVs, Valmet produces drop-tops for BMW, Mini, Daimler, Renault and Bentley. The company has also built more than a million cars since 1969 including Saab convertibles, Porsche Boxsters and Caymans and since March this year, the Fisker Karma luxury range-extender EV.

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