Lordstown Motors has spent the past week convincing investors, industry analysts, customers, the media and others that it remains a viable start-up that will succeed in making an innovative full-size electric pickup truck.
The five-day event, called Lordstown Week, involved trips to prototype versions of the Endurance pickup, which the company hopes to start building in final versions later this year for commercial fleet customers. The truck is powered by battery packs supplying power to the electric motors in each wheel hub. This one-wheel motor design greatly sets the Endurance platform apart from other electric vehicles.
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The company has held tours and demonstrations inside its massive 6.2 million square foot factory complex in Trumbull County. The company bought the property for $ 20 million from General Motors, who originally built the plant in the 1960s. The facility for decades had been a key part of the Mahoning Valley economy and battles. national employment policies.
And there were presentations from the company’s new management team, including presentations from Angela Strand, Executive Chairman and Interim CEO of Lordstown Motors. She runs the company following the June 13 layoffs of the company’s founder and CEO, Steve Burns, and CFO Julio Rodriguez.
Lordstown village mayor optimistic about electric vans
Lordstown Village Mayor Arno Hill participated in Thursday’s presentations. Hill said he visited the plant when General Motors owned it, and was there the day GM shut down production in 2019. He is impressed with the work Lordstown Motors has done.
“I’m going to tell you that the transformation has been absolutely amazing.… I’m very optimistic,” Hill said. “They keep moving forward.”
Yet that optimism is tempered by what Hill has described as himself and the village being in a “wait mode” as to whether the business will ultimately be successful. Lordstown Motors has hired significant industry expertise in management, engineering and other areas, he said. He said electric car maker Tesla was at one point seen as close to failure.
Lordstown Motors appears to be working to get recent bad press, Hill said.
Strand, the interim CEO, made presentations and introduced the senior managers to the visitors at the start of each day’s program. She did not answer questions at Tuesday’s event, which involved the media.
“I embrace the change,” she said. “And management and the board understand the need for change in order to mature and grow an organization. In particular an open company. “
His role is to guide Lordstown Motors as he embraces change as well, Strand said. “And the board of directors and management team are deeply committed to this goal of bringing the first full-size fully electric pickup to market.
The company says the focus is on three key areas
The company is “relentlessly focused” on people, technology and transparency, Strand said.
“We are laser-focused on reaching our initial production target by the end of September,” she said.
Strand, speaking of transparency, did not detail the related issues the company has found itself embroiled in. Lordstown Motors fired founder Burns and former CFO after reports claimed the company incorrectly disclosed the number and quality of non-binding orders for the Endurance Pickup. And a Wall Street Journal article earlier this week said five company executives, including the former CFO, sold significant personal shares in the company before Lordstown Motors publicly disclosed a quarterly loss. significant and higher expenses than expected.
Lordstown week was scheduled before the recent bad news.
“As a public company, transparency is essential,” Strand said. “Transparency begins with honesty, integrity, accountability, the way we treat each other and the way we interact with the media, with shareholders, with our partners and with our customers. “
The company is seeking additional funding to increase capacity and further automate processes to reach full production, Strand said. “We are exploring multiple sources of capital in addition to evaluating strategic partnerships. And we continue to do due diligence with our [federal government] ready.”
The company still has to install its production lines for electric motors; he says he will get the necessary parts in August, in time to start vehicle production in September. Lordstown Motors licenses hub motor technology to Slovenian company. Other parts of the production process are underway, including gigantic stamping presses that form body panels and a first battery assembly line.
Still a lot of unused space
Much of the space in the Lordstown complex is unused, and Strand said that was to be expected. The company currently has around 450 employees. In its heyday under General Motors, thousands of people worked there.
Darren Post, vice president of engineering with decades of experience in the automotive industry, was among the leaders of the media tour. He showed the features of the Endurance pickup and helped explain the manufacturing processes.
Among the things he demonstrated was the Endurance “frunk” or front trunk, a secure space where an engine would be in a traditional gasoline pickup.
Post said the truck’s hub motor technology, which has been questioned by analysts and others, is viable and robust.
“It doesn’t break,” he said.
The assembly process uses robots to bolt what the company calls the skateboard – the frame with the wheels, motor, and battery – to the body.
Lordstown Motors and its Endurance truck receive mixed reviews
Industry analysts and other media reported mixed reviews of the plant and the tour this week.
“We continue to believe that Lordstown has a long way to go,” wrote Joseph Spak, analyst at RBC Capital Markets, who attended Lordstown Week. Using the unique hub motor technology is a risk, he said.
The large factory is an asset to the business and could be used as collateral for a loan, Spak wrote in a note to clients. Plant management said the replacement value of the equipment inside is $ 3 billion, he wrote.
Spak said he had the opportunity to drive Ford’s F-150 Lightning electric pickup prototype as well as the Endurance.
“Although both are beta versions, the comparison was not close, in our opinion, because Ford had a more refined, better performing and better performing vehicle,” he wrote. “That said, the endurance can still improve and there were some impressive specs including the turning radius.”
Deutsche Bank analyst Emmanuel Rosner wrote this week that Lordstown Motors must find quick access to capital to meet its goal of commercially producing Endurance pickups by the end of the year. The business faces significant challenges, he wrote.
“While the market opportunity is significant and the Lordstown truck has generated decent initial interest from potential fleet customers, we see considerable uncertainty ahead,” Rosner wrote.
Autoblog.com mainstream editor Jeremy Korzeniewski wrote that his brief interaction with Endurance suggested it could be a viable electric truck, but more work is needed. The company has a talented team behind it, but will need more money and hard work to meet its 2021 goals, he wrote.
Military-style prototype vehicle demonstrates versatility
The nearly four-hour daily presentation ended with the ability to climb into another prototype vehicle based on the Endurance platform – a military-style vehicle with no doors or roll bars instead of a roof.
The unique truck has been designed to show off the ruggedness of the Endurance skateboard as well as the versatility of being able to drop different body designs into it. The chassis has been reinforced to withstand the regular abuse of riding uphill and uphill, in mud, ruts and deep water.
The mayor of Lordstown Hill said he had to leave before he had a chance to get on the military-style prototype.
Setting up and running the auto plant is important to the region, Hill said.
“It means jobs,” he said. A viable Lordstown Motors will attract other suppliers to the region.
Mahoning Valley hopes to earn the nickname Voltage Valley and is on its way with not only the start of Lordstown Motors but also a battery operation from General Motors, he said. Other companies have also recently established or expanded in the region, he said.
“Everything will be fine,” Hill said.
Jim Mackinnon covers business. He can be reached at 330-996-3544 or [email protected] Follow him @JimMackinnonABJ on Twitter or at www.facebook.com/JimMackinnonABJ.