Audio Podcast

The last concept evolution of the Th!nk electric car

TH!NK Global: When Timing Is Everything

Former CEO Richard Canny shares his insights into the repeated rise and fall of one scrappy little Norwegian electric car company


In a way, you have to admire the foresight and determination of the people who brought to life the scrappy little Norweigian car company that would become Th!nk Global. What began as Pivco, then Ford Th!nk, then Th!nk Global did their damnedest to bring the world a practical city electric car.

One of those people was Australian Richard Canny who moved to Norway to run Th!nk just as the world sank into the "Great Recession" in late 2008. It would prove the final "straw" of a promising dream that became a decade earlier with the CityBee, an admirable attempt at a practical electric car given the Norwegian company's limited resources. It's competitors at the time were GM's EV1, Honda's EV Plus and Nissan's Hypermini: none of which were interested in being part of a pioneering "station car" program in San Francisco. That's where I first encountered the car in late 1998, just as the project was winding down and the cars being returned to Norway, their NHTSA waiver having expired, if memory serves. It wasn't but a few months later the company filed for bankruptcy in Norway, the first of several as fate would have it.

Richard Canny was Ford's man in Malaysia and South America for a time and not directly involved with what happened next to Pivco when then Ford CEO Jacques Nasser bought the company. Nasser's vision for Ford was truly global, buying up a number famed but troubled European badges, including Pivco, paying a paltry $10 million for it. Anticipating that Ford needed an electric car brand, he threw the Dearborn carmaker's significant engineering expertise into the company, renaming it Th!nk, only to abandon it two years later. But in the interim, they would create the City, the Neighbor, and even an electric bike because Ford's future was mobility not manufacturing, Nasser envisioned.

Then came the fall of Lehman Brothers and the bursting of the housing bubble, along with it a global recession that would drive US carmakers into the arms of the federal government; all but Ford who muddled through by closing plants, slashing model lines, and offering executive buyouts, including Canny.

It is at this point in the story, Canny becomes a part of the history, which he recounts in more detail in the full-length version of our nearly 40-minute long discussion, some 8 minutes of which you can listen to using the embedded MP3 player at the right. To gain access to full EV World "Future In Motion™" podcasts, consider becoming a Patron supporter.

Below are some of the iterations of the Th!nk product line: the City, the Public shuttle concept, and the 2008 Geneva Auto Show concept dubbed the O.X. Canny shared the multiple concept illustrations above that depict what the next generation of Th!nk would have been like had its timing been better and its investor pockets deeper.

Oh what might have been...

Think's Once Promising Future

Note: More on the history of Th!nk here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Think_Global

First Published: 2020-05-20

Pages Viewed: 55756

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Richard Canny

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