The automotive world has overlooked startups outside of Japan, North America and Western Europe in recent history. This oversight is rooted in sluggish economic development in Eastern Europe, Africa, South Asia and Latin America through the late 20th century. We can no longer ignore these regions as sources of vehicle innovation as investments, infrastructure and consumer purchases increase over the next generation. Croatia was tied up in civil conflict in the former Yugoslavia until independence in 1991. Croatia has emerged two decades later with an expanding economy powered in part by innovations like homegrown electric vehicle manufacturers.
Rimac Automobili was founded only four years ago by young entrepreneur Mate Rimac. His vision was to create an all-electric sports car that competes with Ferrari and Aston Martin in the luxury market. The company’s Concept One EV certainly comes priced as a luxury vehicle with an initial cost of one million dollars. The Concept One can hit 190 miles per hour based on the company’s early tests, which would top the competition in the production EV market. Rimac also claims that the Concept One can travel up to 360 miles per charge thanks to efficient motors attached to the wheels.
Another EV manufacturer based in Croatia is Dok-Ing Automotive. The company was founded in 1991 by engineer Vjekoslav Majetic in hopes of developing affordable green vehicles. Majetic has since developed the XD Prototype, a three-seat urban EV first presented at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show. The XD Prototype is currently priced at $76,000 though mass production could bring the price down close to $50,000. This diminutive EV can reach 86 MPH and reach 60 MPH from a full stop in 7.5 seconds. Dok-Ing claims a per-charge range of 155 miles thanks to a highly-efficient drive system as well as a lightweight carbon-fiber body.
Rimac and Dok-Ing have grown slowly in comparison to major automakers elsewhere in the world. Rimac has capped production of the Concept One to 15 units per year due to high costs and relatively limited demand. Dok-Ing has already received about 50 pre-orders from early adopters in Croatia with production planned by the end of 2013. Both automakers have remained in Croatia despite potential financial incentives for moving elsewhere in the world. Rimac struggled in the company’s early days to secure financing for production without moving the company abroad. Majetic created Dok-Ing as his home country gained independence and wants to spur demand in the region.
Media outlets like The Financial Times have profiled Croatia’s EV market in recent months. A report earlier this month by Fast Market Research concluded that manufacturers like Rimac and Dok-Ing should contribute to a 21% growth in economic output between 2013 and 2017. We should be bullish about Croatia if only because of the commitments of Mr. Rimac and Mr. Majetic to building EVs in their home country. Major investments by Rimac and Dok-Ing in expanded production will yield hundreds of jobs and require parts, design expertise and distribution from outside sources. These automakers can cater to urban drivers and wealthy clients around the world without leaving Croatia. A similar template could be replicated throughout the world with greater focus on green vehicle innovation by governments, universities and consumers.