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It looks like Tesla Motors will finally have some competition for headlines in the United States: Think, a Norwegian maker of electric cars, has announced a partnership with Kleiner Perkins and Rockport Capital Partners to export its vehicles stateside through Th!nk North America, a new subsidiary.
Out of the many small electric vehicle makers in existence, Think is one of the few that seems credible. The company has proved popular in its home country and taken investments from General Electric, DFJ Element, Kleiner Perkins and Rockport, and several European firms.
The Think City, the first model to come over, looks vaguely like a VW Beetle and has a range of 110 miles and top speed of 65 miles per hour. While those specs aren’t likely to inspire the masses to junk their SUVs and switch, its $25,000 price tag will prove attractive to plenty, including corporate fleets anxious to cut down on fuel expenses. More attractive will be the Think Ox, a model slated for production in 2010 with a higher top speed and range. (It’s the model pictured below.)
Demand has been unexpectedly high even for the few electric vehicles already sold in the US, so there’s no reason to think the market here isn’t ripe for new models. But Euro-style vehicles have never done that well in the States, and Think may get competition in the urban vehicle market from Smart cars, which have also started to appear this year and are far cheaper, starting at under $12,000.
Other consumers, who need to go longer distances or drive at highway speeds, will likely gravitate to larger hybrid models like the Prius, which the Think is attempting to undercut in price but not functionality.
For now, sales of the Think will be limited to trial and demonstration models, according to the company. When the cars began to be shipped to the US en masse, in 2009, they’ll probably show up first in the Bay Area; Think’s local offices are in Menlo Park, Calif.
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