Electric-car companies may want to change the auto industry, but they certainly aren't above hiring from the Big Three.

Norway-based Think Global this week announced it has hired Richard Canny, a Ford Motor Co. executive, as its chief operating officer.

Before joining Think, Canny was the worldwide director of strategic planning at Ford. He also previously served as the managing director of Ford Malaysia, president of Ford Argentina and president of Ford South America.

"The electrification of the automobile industry has reached a tipping point," he said in a written statement. "My view is that Think is where the future of the automotive industry will be."

Think also said it has hired Mikael Ekholm, who managed manufacturing operations for Volvo and Saab, as its executive vice president for engineering and manufacturing, and Arne Degermoose, a veteran Saab and Volkswagen launch manager, to run its assembly plant in Aurskog, Norway.

The news comes after Tesla Motors earlier this month said it had hired two executives from Ford and from Mazda Motor Corp (see Tesla Hires Two More Auto Execs).

Deepak Ahuja, who was formerly the controller for Ford's small-cars product-development program, signed on as Tesla's chief financial officer and Franz von Holzhausen, former director of design for Mazda North America, joined Tesla as its chief designer.

Tesla in July hired a former Chrysler executive, Mike Donoughe, to head its manufacturing operations (see Tesla Hires Chrysler Vet).

Hiring experienced auto veterans is a sign these vehicle startups are becoming more serious about manufacturing, said Paul Lacy, manager of technical research for Global Insight, in response to the Tesla announcement.

Think and Tesla are targeting different parts of the market for now, with Tesla selling a $100,000 sports car and Think rolling out a pint-sized city car with an estimated price tag of €20,000 (about $29,578), plus a €200-per-month ($295.79) battery rental.

But they may eventually be competing for more than just talent.

Think is developing a larger electric car, the Ox, that it hopes will have more mainstream appeal, and Tesla is developing a sedan and a compact sports car that it hopes also will bring it into a larger market. Think has said it will expand sales to the United States, while Tesla has said it will deliver 250 Roadsters to Europe next year.

The two companies previously were partners. Tesla had planned to sell its battery packs to Think before it decided to put its battery business on hold (see Tesla Suspends Battery-Pack Business).