Tesla and Fisker aren't the only cars with waiting lists.
Think, the Norwegian electric car maker that rebounded from a near-death experience earlier this year, has 2,300 customers on its waiting list for the Think City town car. The list includes both individuals and businesses that have placed deposits on the car as well as municipal transportation authorities that have placed orders for cars, according to company spokesman James Andrew.
"If we were to include 'hand raisers' as well, the number would be much higher!" he added.
Back in June, sources close to Think told us that an extensive waiting list had been building.
Although the auto industry has been in the midst of one of it worst slumps ever, the tiny electric auto industry seems to be experiencing experiencing the opposite of that. Waiting lists have become common for these companies. Tesla Motors has a waiting list of around 1,800 for its Model S Sedan coming in the 2012 model year. Potential buyers have to plunk down $5,000 for a regular Model S and $40,000 for a Signature edition to get a place in line. Even though the company's Roadster is in full production, a small waiting list still exists.
Approximately 1,400 individuals have put down deposits to get on the waiting list for the Karma, the luxury plug-in coming belatedly from Fisker Automotive next year, according to USA Today. Fisker's site says that the Signature Editions of the Karma have sold out. A deposit on the standard Karma runs $5,000 while a deposit on the convertible runs $25,000.
Aptera, which has created an all-electric three-wheeled vehicle (see test drive video here) has collected refundable $500 deposits from 4,000 prospective California buyers. The company right now is only taking deposits from Californians because that is where the car will be released when it comes out next year.
GM-Volt, meanwhile, has created an informal, non-binding waiting list for the Chevy Volt that doesn't involve money. Over 50,000 have signed up.
Consumers can always finagle their way off of a waiting list (particularly the non-binding Volt one), and Think did not tell us the size of the deposit, but the existence of the list demonstrates the growing consumer fascination with electric cars. The total of paid reservations at this point comes to approximately 9,500 with more to come. In 1998, Toyota sold 17,653 Priuses in the first full year of sales.
Rarity, of course, has a lot to do with it. Tesla says it still has the only freeway-legal electric car for sale and major manufacturers won't get into the plug-in and electric car market until the Nissan Leaf and GM Volt appear late next year. Even as the years progress, electric cars and plug-in hybrids will remain only a fraction of the total number of cars cranked out by automakers. Tesla CEO Elon Musk says all-electrics could be 10 percent to 20 percent of the market by 2020. Ford says that 10 percent to 25 percent of the market by 2020 will consist of hybrids, all-electrics and plug-ins, but the preponderance of those cars will be regular fill-'em-up-but-don't-plug-'em-in hybrids. Nissan says 10 percent of its productinon in 2020 will be all-electric. Even if you look at those numbers optimistically, gas cars will still constitute the majority of vehicles coming out of factories 11 years from now. Those numbers explain why companies like Volkswagen tend to emphasize clean diesels.
Whether the feverish interest will hold up when the final pricing comes out and the first reviews trickle in remains one of the big questions in the industry.
Think is one of the older companies in electrics and one of the industry's great melodramas. Think got its start in the early 1990s in Scandinavia and developed a prototype in 1991. Ford subsequently bought it but then spun it out again in 2003 as the existing company. In early 2007, the company said it would start shipping cars to customers in Norway and the U.K. in the fall of that year and to U.S. customers in 2008. In July 2007, it raised $60 million in VC funds. Before that, Think had raised $25 million.
The first cars finally came to the market in late November 2008. They were only available at a single dealer in Norway. A few weeks later in December 2008 Think had to halt production due and said it might go out of business unless it received an injection of around $29 million dollars. the Norwegian government turned the company down.
"We are in a very serious situation," said Richard Canny, the relatively new CEO, said in a news conference, Reuters reported. "We would not have taken these actions if it was not serious. We need to intensify efforts to bring in new capital."
Then over the summer, the lifeline was thrown out: Battery maker Ener1, Valmet Automotive, a VC firm associated with the Norwegian government and others came forward with approximately $47 million in stages. Cars are expected to start coming out again in 2010.
Like a lot of electric cars, the Think City isn't cheap. The base price of the car when it first came out was 200,000 Norwegian Kroner ($28,690). Consumers additionally had to lease a battery for 1,275 NOK a month ($183). If a consumer kept the car for seven years, that would result in $15,372 in battery costs.
Together, that would come to $44,062. The price of the battery includes 300 NOK in taxes a month. Take that out and the price comes to $40,450. You could almost buy two new Honda Accords for the price of a single City.
It is not clear what the price will be when the Think City returns, but batteries have only marginally declined in price.
Photo of the Think City via the company.