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Elkhart mayor worried about car plant's future

June 24, 2011

The bankruptcy filing of an electric car manufacturer has clouded the future of a northern Indiana factory that was touted as an economic boost for an area hit hard by job losses in the recreational vehicle industry.

Elkhart Mayor Dick Moore said a company official told the city's economic development director that the factory there wouldn't be affected by Norway-based Think Global's bankruptcy filing, but he remains concerned.

IBJ reported Wednesday that the company was set to file for bankruptcy.

"We don't want them to be a failure," Moore told The Elkhart Truth. "We want them to be successful."

A spokesman for Think North America didn't immediately respond Thursday to phone and email messages from The Associated Press seeking comment.

“A court-appointed trustee is taking over the short-term operation of the company and will decide what happens next,” Think Global spokesman James Andrew told Bloomberg News on Thursday.

The company started production in Elkhart in December with a few dozen workers at the factory that once produced parts for recreational vehicles. The company planned for the factory to have some 400 workers by 2013 and eventually build more than 20,000 cars a year.

But the newspaper reported Thursday that production at the Elkhart factory was shut down recently as it waited on the delivery of parts.

A major creditor said in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing that Think Global could face liquidation in Norwegian courts.

New York-based Ener1, which makes lithium-ion batteries in the Indianapolis area at its EnerDel subsidiary, said it expected a possible $35 million loss on unpaid loans and accounts receivable from Think Global.

The Elkhart factory was the first North American production site for the Think City, a compact, two-door car that the company had been making at a plant in Finland.

Think North America issued three recalls on the first cars produced at the Elkhart factory for defects to its gear shift levers, seat belts and defrosting systems.Established 20 years ago, Think said it has put 2,500 of its Think City vehicles on the road in Europe and the U.S. since the model was introduced in 1999. In May, it won a contract to supply electric cars to the U.S. government, it said on its website.

Metso Oyj’s Valmet Automotive unit is ceasing production of Think City electric cars after the Think Global bankruptcy filing, state-owned broadcaster YLE reported on its website.

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