Lordstown Motors appears to be shifting chairs on the deck of the Titanic. The electric truck startup kept a scheduled media event one day after CEO Steve Burns and chief financial officer Julio Rodriguez resigned after an investigation by the company’s board.
The virtual meeting with the Automotive Press Association out of Detroit started with a statement by Angela Strand, the lead independent director who has been appointed executive chairman. Lordstown is committed to transparency and plans to start limited production in late September, with no disruptions in day-to-day operations envisioned, Strand says.
Then president Rich Schmidt and chief engineer Darren Post proceeded with an upbeat presentation about the virtues of the Lordstown Endurance electric pickup, which the company says is sold out through 2022. And they showed the plant with robots and conveyor belts in full motion as the former General Motors factory continues its retooling in preparation for the fall launch.
Who to Believe About the Fate of Lordstown Motors
The current health of Lordstown is very much dependent on who you’re asking.
In a securities filing last week, Lordstown said it did not have the money it needs to begin mass production and the company may not survive, a seeming direct contradiction of the rosy outlook the company is furnishing amidst its public turmoil.
Today, Schmidt laid out a very different scenario, saying the startup has $400 million in the bank, enough funding for production through May 2022 at which point it will needs more capital for hard tooling to expand capacity beyond the current 20,000 units a year. Higher volumes are needed to be more profitable. Lordstown is still actively raising money and will host an investor day at the plant next week. Once production is underway, he thinks many investors will jump on the bandwagon.
Back Up, What is Lordstown Motors?
How Many Pre-Orders for the Lordstown Endurance?
Lordstown said it took $100 deposits from thousands of potential customers on an electric work truck to start at $52,500. But securities regulators are investigating whether the company’s claims about pre-orders are true. And the price of the truck has increased to $55,000 to reflect higher supply chain costs, Schmidt says.
The president said he could not comment on the SEC investigation into false numbers of orders, but he said the company has enough firm and binding orders for a short production run this year and a full run in 2022—and those numbers might be on the conservative side.
Former GM Plant Was in Good Shape
The former GM plant had good bones to work with. Instead of spending $500 million for a new body shop, the existing one has been retooled and is ready to go. Instead of a new $300 million paint shop, the existing one is currently being reprogrammed and is starting to spray. GM added a new skillet line to the final assembly line in 2016 and Lordstown put in some new key stations such as the marriage line where body meets frame because the Endurance is a much larger vehicle than the Chevrolet Cruze car that used to be assembled there.
Lordstown did have to add two new lines: one for battery modules (the 109-kWh packs fit within the frame), and one for the hub motors that sit on each wheel to propel the electric truck. The battery line is now running, and the hub line is scheduled to start in July. Overall, 85 percent of the retooling is complete, Schmidt says, and the stamping presses are being recommissioned.
The company has just under 600 employees now and that will ramp up in the next few months as workers are added and trained closer to the start of production.
Unique Hub Motors on Lordstown Endurance
The Endurance is notable for a drivetrain consisting of hub motors at each of the four wheels which Post insists can withstand even Detroit potholes. Testing suggests the truck will break a wheel before it breaks a hub, he says.
Output from the four motors is rated at 600 horsepower with a range of more than 250 miles on a single charge. Towing capacity is expected to be about 7,500 pounds. The startup put out a promotional video to show its potential prowess on the work site and bouncing down bumpy roads. Essentially it has the same dimensions as a Chevrolet Silverado with a four-foot wide bed to handle construction materials. It is mostly aluminum with a steel frame. GM is still a partner and the truck relies on many GM parts.
Inside, the minimalist interior is dominated by three screens on the dashboard, with climate control buttons underneath. The five-passenger truck with vinyl floors and seats has an industrial feel, especially with metal accents. Where an engine would normally be, there is a 9.6-cubic-foot frunk with 110-volt power.
The truck won’t be done final testing for certification until late in the year, so the plan is to park finished vehicles and retrofit if necessary before they are sent to customers.
Why would anyone risk a truck from this startup when they can get an electric Ford or Chevy or Rivian truck soon? With only four moving parts (the hub motors) the cost of ownership will be low, which appeals to fleet buyers who also appreciate the innovation and speed that smaller startups offer, the Lordstown execs say.
As for the proposed van that would share parts with the Endurance truck? Schmidt says all focus is on the Endurance right now, but a prototype van could be shown later this summer. We’ll hold off our enthusiasm until (or if) we see trucks headed to customers.