Ford to Return Electric Cars to Norway

Thursday, September 16th 2004, 10:40 am
By: News On 6

OSLO, Norway (AP) _ Ford Motor Co. agreed to return about 300 Norwegian-built electric cars to the Nordic country after protests about plans to scrap them, the country's transport minister said Thursday.

Ford owned the Norwegian Think Nordic electric car company until late 2002, when it pulled out after losing faith in battery-powered cars as a way of reducing pollution.

The Dearborn, Michigan-based carmaker imported hundreds of tiny, rounded, two-seat Think cars to the United States for a three-year testing period. At the end of the test, it planned to scrap them.

That drew protests in Norway from the government, Greenpeace and others, because at least 200 Norwegians are on waiting lists to buy Think cars.

Last month, 14 Greenpeace activists scaled the walls of Ford's Norwegian headquarters, demanding that the cars be saved and hanging such banners as: ``Ford: Don't Crush Think.''

After meeting with Ford officials in Oslo, Norwegian Transportation Minister Torild Skogsholm said she was happy about the solution.

``We have to think about the future and on getting as many clean cars as possible,'' she said, adding the government has offered incentives to drivers who use the cars, including free parking and exemption from having to pay tolls.

Earlier, Ford said it only had permission from U.S. federal authorities to test the cars for three years, and that it had always planned to destroy them after the test period.

The company had said it did not want to sell the secondhand cars to consumers amid concerns about honoring warranties, quality control and Ford's own reputation if buyers were dissatisfied.

However, Ingvar M. Sviggum, vice president of Ford Europe, said Thursday the company would respect Norway's wishes and return the cars in November.

He said the company will examine each car and sell those that are deemed to be in good enough condition through its own dealers in Norway.

Some dealers have started advertising the car for 100,000 Norwegian kronor ($14,500).

The dispute gained such a high profile in Norway, that a Norwegian shipping concern offered to transport the vehicles back to the Nordic country at no charge.

The Think Nordic company was taken over by Kamkorp Microelectronics in 2003 and was given the right to use the ``Think'' moniker by ford.

Some 1,000 of the cars have been built.