The small companies planning to launch electric vehicles face a critical decision that has nothing to do with technology: picking the right retail model.
Do you go with franchised dealers? Company-owned stores? Hook up with a big nonautomotive retail chain?
One company, Think North America, will decide soon, a spokesman says. It sounds as if the Norwegian EV maker is at least considering option three.
"We have talked to retailers who are in automotive, and we have talked to retailers who are not in automotive," says spokesman Brendan Prebo.
It's tricky. Franchised dealers are feisty folks, but they use their own money to build you a retail network. Company-owned stores offer control but require you to bankroll an unfamiliar line of business.
With a big, nonautomotive retailer -- let's call this "the Wal-Mart option" -- you get a ready-made network. But humongous retailers expect humongous leverage over pricing, product features and in-store display.
In Think's case, the company just scored $40 million in equity to build a plant in Elkhart, Ind. Sales begin early next year.
So the retail riddle is getting pretty real for Think.