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Ford to Recondition Think Electric Cars

September 17, 2004|From Bloomberg News

Ford Motor Co. said Thursday that it would ship as many as 300 Think electric cars back to Norway, sparing remnants of the failed project from the scrap heap.

Shipping giant Wallenius Wilhelmsen agreed to transport the cars from the U.S. and Europe at no cost to Ford, the second-largest U.S. automaker said. Cars judged acceptable for resale will be reconditioned and sold by Ford dealers in Norway, where they were made.

Think cars, leased for as many as three years in California and New York, were to be crushed as their leases expired. The vehicles do not meet U.S. safety standards, and Ford had a waiver only for the lease period.

However, the decision to scrap the Think cars spurred protests from environmental groups. Last month, Greenpeace protested at Ford's Norwegian headquarters.

The Think project, begun in 1999, was part of former Chief Executive Jacques Nasser's plan to expand into new businesses and sell environmentally friendly vehicles. William Clay Ford Jr. ousted Nasser in late 2001 to become CEO and in 2002 pulled the plug on Think, selling it to British-based Kamkorp Ltd.

Since the Think investment, Ford has shifted its emphasis from electric cars to gasoline-electric hybrids and hydrogen fuel-cell models. Ford began production last month of a gasoline-electric hybrid version of its Escape small sport utility vehicle and said it might sell as many as 20,000 hybrid Escapes a year.

"This decision to save zero-emission Think vehicles, we hope, is a first step to building a fleet of zero-emission vehicles," said Jennifer Krill, zero-emissions campaign director for the Rainforest Action Network.

Dearborn, Mich.-based Ford wouldn't specify the cost of revamping the cars in Norway. Ford hasn't disclosed its investment in Think.

Ford shares rose 14 cents to $13.95 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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