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Calif. company bids for unplugged Ford electric car unit

Reuters / October 31, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO -- Zap, a California maker of electric bikes and scooters, said on Thursday it had made a $10 million offer to buy Ford Motor Co's Think electric vehicle division, which the auto giant scrapped this year due to poor demand.

"Zap's prime business is the high technology -- the electric vehicle transportation business -- that is our only business," Gary Starr, Zap's chairman, told Reuters.

"There is demand for electric vehicles, but it doesn't seem that the conventional auto makers are making them available for sale. That is Zap's mission."

Zap, through its subsidiary Voltage Vehicles, has offered up to $10 million in cash, stock and warrants to purchase all of Ford's electric vehicle assets, including the Think City car program. The company, which trades in the over-the-counter market, did not detail how much of its bid was made in cash and how much in stock or warrants.

Ford paid $23 million in 1999 for the Norway-based electric vehicle company Pivco Industries, renaming it Think or TH!NK, and has since invested $100 million in the technology in response to environmental regulations on fuel economy and emissions.

In August, however, Ford announced it was pulling the plug on the Think program, saying disappointing sales and lack of government support for electric vehicle programs had reduced its viability in the mass market.

Ford said it would try to sell Think, or work with the Norwegian government to transform the company to create a viable business. Think has two facilities outside Oslo and employs about 150 people.

A Ford spokeswoman said Thursday the Think unit was still officially for sale, noting that the company would not comment on possible bids or deals that had not been finalized.


Zap, founded in 1994 and based in Sebastopol, Calif., currently produces a range of electric scooters and bicycles and logs sales of about $8 annually, Starr said.

He said the company was convinced that Think electric cars could be a valuable addition to its product line, and that the cars could find a market among environmentally-conscious and technically savvy consumers.

"We believe that there is some new technology that is becoming available that will make electric vehicles even more cost effective than they currently are," Starr said.

"What we have found is that that the people who have rented or leased the cars are very interested in purchasing those cars. In fact, the people who have leased the Ford cars have told us they all want to buy the cars."

The Think City, a two-seater, plastic-bodied hatchback sold in Europe, has a range of about 53 miles (85 km) in city driving and requires up to six hours for a recharge.

The Think Neighbor, a golfcart-like vehicle with a top speed of about 25 miles (40 km) per hour, started production at a Ford plant in Detroit in the fall of last year.

While Ford said it could make up to 10,000 Think Neighbor vehicles annually only about 1,700 have been sold so far this year and the company plans to wind down production.

Starr said Zap saw a good potential market for the cars in gated communities, resort cities, and as second cars.

Ford is not the only automaker to back away from electric vehicles. General Motors spent over $1 billion to develop the GM EV1 electric vehicle in the 1990s, but stopped making it after lengthy recharge times and limited range cut consumer interest.

Electric vehicles cost thousands of dollars more than similarly sized cars because of the expensive batteries, which need replacing after a few years.

Government regulations pushing for so-called zero-emission vehicles such as electric cars, which emit no smog-producing exhaust, have also been pushed back.

California's regulations forcing automakers to offer up to 100,000 electric cars and other low-pollution vehicles on the road each year were scheduled to go into effect with the 2003 model year, but have been stayed by a court injunction.

Gas-electric hybrid vehicles such as Toyota Motor Corp.'s Prius and Honda Motor Co.'s Insight have sold well since coming on the market several years ago, and Ford itself has said it plans to focus on fuel cell and hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles to meet environmental regulations, selling its first hybrid, a version of the Ford Escape small sport utility vehicle, next year.

My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.

My next Ford.....
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