Remember when the U.S. capital of RV production, Elkhart, IN was going to escape the doldrums that the decline of the motor home industry brought on by shifting over to building electric cars? Not so fast. As NPR reports, rising demand for RVs has helped boost employment in Elkhart, IN, while the number of workers at the factory building Think electric vehicles has dwindled to just two.
The town has benefited from RV sales that jumped more than 60 percent between 2009 and 2011 to about 250,000 units. Such increased demand has helped offset the effect of the failure of Think, whose parent company went bankrupt. Think at one time estimated that it would employ more than 400 people in Elkhart, which is about 150 miles north of Indianapolis and had an unemployment rate of about 20 percent when Think first announced its plans to make EVs there. When we visited in late 2010, things were looking so positive.
Think only reached a peak of 25 workers and is now down to two. There are about 120 Think EVs sitting at the Elkhart factory, with another 32 in various stages of completion, according to NPR.
Norway-based Think went bankrupt last June despite the fact that it had received a $118.5 million grant from the federal government. That bankruptcy helped drive investor and lithium-ion battery maker Ener1 into bankruptcy in late January. That company said in late February that it would emerge from bankruptcy this month.