Lordstown Motors Corps. sprinting for ‘Endurance’

Rich Schmidt, Lordstown Motors Corp. chief production officer, stands next to an idled assembly line inside of the former Lordstown General Motors assembly plant, discussing what needs to be done at the 6.2 million-square-foot facility before the start of electric truck production. (Photo special to the Salem News by R. Michael Semple)

LORDSTOWN — Efforts to raise what Lordstown Motors Corp. CEO Steve Burns says is a number north of $300 million to repurpose the former General Motors facility into a plant for making battery-powered vehicles began in earnest when GM figuratively handed over the keys last week.

That’s despite what he called being in “constant fundraising mode” to secure enough money to begin operating at the 6.2 million-square-foot facility, which came to the electric vehicle startup fully stocked at a price reportedly of $20 million.

“It’s a great jumping-off point because we’re in a hurry. We want to be the first to market. We have been engineering for a long time, but having a fully stocked plant — fully functioning up-to-date modern plant — saves us years and, of course, a lot of capital,” Burns said.

“It (the plant) was built for one thing — volume production of vehicles, and we intend to get to volume as soon as possible,” Burns said.

Burns on Thursday had Lordstown Motors’ executive team at the idled plant to discuss its future, which he said, if done right, can be a “hub, (an) epicenter” of electric vehicle production in the Midwest if not the entire United States.

“Our vehicle short goal is to bring a product to market — the first electric pickup truck in the United States — but to do that, it sure helps to have a lot of suppliers,” Burns said.

The pickup named Endurance will be produced for fleet use and will cost $50,000.

The facility will employ about 400 people to start, but should it reach full capacity, Burns said he anticipates it employing about 5,000 workers on three shifts, which is about how many the facility employed when GM was running two shifts producing the Chevrolet Cruze.

Burns did not speculate on how long it may take to reach full capacity.

The $300 million ensures the company will be profitable through production of the Endurance, named after the grit and determination of the people who will build the truck and of its attributes — a tough work truck with a lasting charge.

“We want to make sure we’ve got enough, but in this business, there is never enough … again for the experience we already have in putting electric trucks on the road and the engineering we have been doing for a year — and getting the plant in the shape it’s got — it dramatically lessens the normal capital expenditures requested to do this sort of thing,” Burns said.

The target to have the plant retooled is six months, said Rich Schmidt, Lordstown Motors’ chief production officer.

“As we reconstruct and retool this facility, we want to make it as flexible as possible so we can run a car, an SUV, a truck down the same line,” Schmidt said. “We don’t want to be like the old traditional mindset — you build a platform to run a car; you build a platform to run a truck. We want to be universal, flexible.”

Walking into a facility with the equipment already place, he said, shaves about a year from the time needed to get production rolling. Also, he said, to build a plant akin to it from the ground up today would cost about $3 billion.

There is “very usable, high-tech equipment that we will reconfigure and reconstruct to our product. We have expandability really to 500,000 vehicles with very little modifications to the facility other than to work on the envelope size,” Schmidt said.

The plant in the shape it’s in puts Lordstown Motors “ahead of the game” compared to Tesla, the most well-known maker of electric vehicles in the U.S.

“This plant changes everything for us. We are that much further ahead than Tesla, for instance, when they started,” said Michael E. Gibbons, senior managing director and principal with Brown, Gibbons, Lang and Company, the Cleveland-based firm helping Lordstown Motors raise capital for the plant.

GM idled the plant March 6, the first of three facilities closed as it shifts production toward trucks, SUVs and electric vehicles. Hope that the automaker would assign a new production vehicles to the facility was dashed when GM and United Auto Workers agreed on a new contract that let GM formally close the plant.

Lordstown Motors is partnering with Workhorse Group Inc. in Cincinnati, a company founded by Burns, to license technology for the truck in exchange for a 10 percent stake in the new company. The agreement with Workhorse also provides the opportunity to transfer 6,000 existing preorders received by Workhorse for its W-15 prototype to Lordstown Motors.


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