Ford Motor Co., which kicks off production of its Think electric car in Norway, plans to unveil a sweeping North American program for the Think brand at the Detroit auto show in January.

"This small car represents the beginning of something much bigger at Ford," Ford of Europe Chairman Nick Scheele said earlier this year.

Capacity at the factory in Aurskog-Holand, Norway, is 5,000 a year, and the goal for next year is 3,000 sales in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland. Nordic Telecom has agreed to buy 700 cars over the next few years.

Think and DaimlerChrysler AG's Smart serve similar purposes. Daimler-Benz AG invested in Smart cars with the makers of Swatch watches because the conservative company needed to learn to be creative. Think will try to do the same for Ford.

Details of the Think project are being closely guarded until the January announcement, but Think will challenge assumptions on sales and distribution, as well as powertrains and manufacturing techniques, insiders say. A Think car for the U.S. likely will be a hybrid.

The Think city car uses plastic body panels on a steel frame, and nickel cadmium batteries give it a range of 53 miles (85 km) and a top speed of 59 mph (94 km/h). Recharging with 220-volt electricity, which is the standard in Europe, takes four to six hours.

John Wallace, the Ford executive in charge of the project, intends Think to be a money maker. DC's Smart, he says, erred in being on too large of a scale. It won't make money for at least six years.