photo: Think Global
Norwegian electric carmaker Think Global, once owned by Ford, has tapped Ford executive Richard Canny as its new president and chief operating officer. Canny previously served as president of Ford South America, president of Ford Argentina and managing director of Ford Malaysia.
Think also announced Tuesday that it has hired a veteran of Volvo and Saab, Mikael Ekholm, as executive vice president for engineering and manufacturing. The appointment of the Australian-born Canny comes as the Oslo company ramps up production of the City, it’s Internet-enabled, battery-powered urban runabout.
Green Wombat chatted with Think CEO Jan-Olaf Willums via e-mail Tuesday about the rollout of the City in Europe, its next model – an electric crossover SUV - and the company’s plans for the United States market. (At Fortune’s Brainstorm Green conference in April, Willums announced the formation of Think North America with marquee venture capital firms Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Rockport Capital Partners. Other investors in Think include General Electric (GE) )
“The factory completed its planned build of 100 cars for the local market prior to the Norwegian summer shutdown,” says Willums, a longtime entrepreneur and sustainability expert who made his fortune as a co-founder of Norweigan solar company REC Solar. “Of course, like any new vehicle launch we are having occasional new issues arise and teething problems to overcome.”
The cars are now on Oslo roads racking up high mileage under real-world conditions, he adds.
Willums says Think will boost production in the second half of the year to support sales in Norway and elswhere in Scandinavia. “During 2009, we are planning a roll out to a number of other European markets with our plans for the major cities (Paris, Amsterdam, Nice, Zurich, Basel) being the priority,” he says. The order of the rollout, he notes, will depend in part on where the government and private sector incentives for electric vehicles are strongest.
To that end, Willums says that the timing of the City’s debut in the United States will be determined in part by state incentives and the policy of the incoming administration in Washington.
Think is in a race to get its cars on the road as the big automakers accelerate their plans for plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars for the mass market. General Motors (GM) is hurrying to bring its Chevy Volt plug-in electric hybrid to showrooms while Toyota (TM) is working on a plug-in version of the Prius. Mitsubishi will supply its i MiEV electric car to California utilities PG&E (PCG) and Southern California Edison (EIX) for fleet testing.
Meanwhile, work continues on the Think Ox, the company’s planned five-seater crossover model. Think showed off a concept version of the electric car at the Geneva auto show earlier this year. The addition of Canny, Willums says, should help the company “grow and mature to a larger scale electric car producer.”
Along with gearing up production of the City, Think has been energizing its marketing efforts, judging by the slick promotional video it created for the Ox below. (For a higher-def version, go here.)