DUESSELDORF - Norwegian plastic-car maker Pivco AS, which declared bankruptcy last month, gained new life when a team of partners stepped forward to form a new company.
Pivco founder and chairman Jan Otto Ringdal, who owned one-third of the previous company, is part of the new ownership group, along with Norwegian plastics processor Bakelittfabrikken AS, and former managers and employees. Terms were not disclosed.
Pivco - designer and manufacturer of a new plastic-bodied electric car called the Th!nk - was declared bankrupt on 30 October. The news broke just as the eight-day K '98 plastics trade fair ended in Duesseldorf. The Th!nk was on display on the stand of Denmark-based resin producer Borealis AS.
Pivco - which stands for Personal Independent Vehicle Co. -officially launched the two-seater Th!nk on 1 October at the European Electric Vehicle Show in Brussels.
The Th!nk combines the innovation of Chrysler Corp.'s Composite Concept Vehicle with a design similar to Volkswagen's New Beetle - but with a twist. Unlike Chrysler's CCV, which uses injection-molded plastic body panels, the Th!nk is made by a less well known technique called 'rotational molding'.
Rotomolding offers a high degree of design freedom and flexibility, and is more cost-effective than injection molding - particularly at the low production rates planned by Pivco. Relatively inexpensive tooling also allows for quicker, cheaper production changeovers.
The Th!nk's body panels are made from high-density polyethylene, supplied by Borealis. Everyday items such as soda bottles are made from HDP, but this is the first time it has been used for exterior automotive panels.
The body panels also have 'molded-in' color. This eliminates the need for painting, but at the expense of a glossy finish.
Pivco has been actively developing the Th!nk for the past seven years with financial help from the Norwegian government.
Pivco's former president and chief executive officer, Per Lilleng, said that the Norwegian government has invested about $12.5 million in grants and $5 million in loans in the project since 1991. Shareholders have contributed another $17.5 million.
Lilleng attributed the recent crisis to two factors: the current difficult climate for raising money on the stock market, and the reluctance of some of the former company's large Norwegian institutional investors to provide more funds.
Pivco planned to lease its cars to private businesses, local authorities and government agencies to develop integrated public transport commuter systems.
It had announced plans to make 1,500 vehicles in 1999 before ramping up production to 5,000 units a year by 2001, primarily to serve the Scandinavian market. In the USA, San Francisco's Bay Area Transit district is already leasing 45 Pivco vehicles for use by Californian commuters.
The Th!nk is powered by a battery that makes up more than 25 percent (about 260kg) of the car's weight. It has a top speed of 90kph and has a driving range of 100km. It takes six to eight hours to recharge, but needs only a standard household electrical outlet.
Kristi Hegna Svendsen, a former marketing manager with Pivco, said the new company will be called Pivco Industries AS.
'The company will gradually ramp up... and the intention is to hire all former employees,' subject to the securing of the necessary additional financing, Svendsen said.