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Electric car plant going nowhere

Perils of governments, national and local, picking technology winners stands out in bankruptcy

January 27, 2012


This morning the Chicago Tribune had a major piece on the conspicuous failure of the Think electric car plant in Elkhart, Ind. After giving all sorts of loans and tax breaks at multiple levels, both the car company and its battery manufacturer are bankrupt. Such are the risks of governments picking winners. Apparently Think is now owned by a Russian investor, and plans going forward are unclear. The manufacturing facility is closed with much work-in-process standing on the floor. You will find the article interesting. Here’s a paragraph that sums up much of the discussion:

"Indiana's foray into electric vehicles is a cautionary tale for states in hot pursuit of high-tech manufacturing jobs. Think's story illustrates how politicians so badly wanted to stimulate job growth that they showered it and the battery supplier with tax breaks and incentives while at the same time failing to determine whether there was a market for the car: a plastic two-seater with a top speed of about 65 miles an hour and a price tag approaching $42,000."

I hope you don’t get the idea that I am trying to badmouth the idea of electric cars. I would love one. If I could buy one of those Think things for $20,000 or less, I’d give it a serious look. One of these days I believe somebody is going to design one that uses a forklift battery or some such and is cheap enough to be appealing. Maybe it will look more like a Citroen 2CV than a Nissan Leaf, but that’s OK, and maybe even better.