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Electric Scooter Maker Zap Bids on Ford Unit

November 01, 2002|John O'Dell | Times Staff Writer

Zap, a small Bay Area manufacturer of electric bicycles and scooters that only recently emerged from bankruptcy reorganization, said Thursday that it has offered Ford Motor Co. $10 million in cash, stock and warrants for its La Jolla-based Think electric vehicle division.

Ford paid $23 million for Think three years ago and has invested more than $100 million in the company, but pulled the plug on the unit earlier this summer, citing poor demand.

Think, originally part of Norway's Pivco Industries, makes electric bicycles, golf-cart style neighborhood vehicles and the plastic-bodied two-seat Think City, which is certified as a highway-legal passenger car capable of a top speed of 60 mph and a maximum range, at much-reduced speeds, of 60 miles between charges.

Though Ford and General Motors Corp. have abandoned the battery-powered electric car market, DaimlerChrysler continues to operate a subsidiary, GEM, that sells battery-powered neighborhood electric vehicles that are legal on city streets posted for 35 mph or less.

Zap has never been in the car business, but Chairman Gary Starr said Thursday that the 8-year-old company's "sole business is electric vehicles, and we can focus on them while they were just a sideline for the major auto companies."

Though Ford and GM have leased electric vehicles to a small number of consumers, they have not offered them for sale.

"People who rented the Think City tell us they want to buy it, and people who rented the EV-1 from GM wanted to buy it," Starr said. "We think there is a market for these cars."

Starr said Zap, with 30 employees and $5 million in sales last year, is working on "a technology that can make the Think cars a lot more cost effective." He declined to comment further, citing a confidentiality agreement with Ford.

Ford environmental affairs spokeswoman Carolyn Brown said she could not comment on Zap or its offer. But Ford said in August that it would try to sell Think, or work with the Norwegian government -- where the Think City is built -- to keep the company viable. Think has two facilities outside Oslo and employs about 150 people. It has fewer than 100 employees at its headquarters in La Jolla.

Zap's shares were up 5 cents to $1.50 Thursday in over-the-counter trading.

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