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Execs tour Foxconn plant

Local, state and foreign business leaders and others connected to the electric-vehicle supply-chain industry walkd past a "Made in Ohio" sign during a tour of Foxconn's newly acquired plant in Lordstown Wednesday afternoon. Tiawanese technology and electronics giant Foxconn acquired the plant for $230 million in May from electric-vehicle startup Lordstown Motors Corp., which bought the factory from General Motors for $20 million in December 2019, almost a year after GM closed the facility.

LORDSTOWN — Development of new electric vehicles under a joint venture between Taiwanese tech giant Foxconn and Lordstown Motors Corp. has already begun, according to a top executive with the electric-vehicle startup.

As have early design and upgrade work to the line at Foxconn’s factory that will produce the PEAR — Southern California-based Fisker Inc.’s second electric vehicle offering, according to a top Foxconn official.

Executives from both sides spoke Wednesday at the plant, opened up by Foxconn to host a tour by a delegation of vehicle mobility executives.

It was done to “cultivate industry collaboration among strategic partners and showcase the facility’s capability to meet customer demand for electric vehicles,” according to a release from Foxconn.

Edward Hightower, president of Lordstown Motors and CEO of MIH EV Design LLC — named in an apparent nod to Foxconn’s mobility in harmony (MIH) electric-vehicle platform — however, wasn’t ready to say much more about the development of new vehicles.

“We have started some of the early development work on the Lordstown vehicles on the MIH platform, so yes, the short answer is yes,” said Hightower, asked about the work so far of the newly formed company.

MIH EV Design is the byproduct of Foxconn’s purchase of Lordstown Motors’ sprawling auto assembly plant in Lordstown in May. Crucial to the acquisition happening was a joint product development agreement to co-develop electric-vehicle programs that is new company.

Getting it off the ground is a $100 million commitment from Foxconn, including a $45 million loan to Lordstown Motors, which owns 45 percent of the company, to support its initial capital commitment.

Fisker and Foxconn, Fisker’s contract manufacturer for the PEAR — Personal Electric Automotive Revolution — remain on target to start production in 2024. The production line should be ready by the first quarter of 2023, said Jerry Hsiao, chief production officer for Foxconn Technology Group.

Product design, he said, is the top priority now.

“So we are not in a hurry to production yet because design for the car and design for the manufacturer’s efficiency is very important” Hsiao said. “So right now, we are making sure the design is good for the manufacturer.”

After the initial ramp-up period, it’s expected at least 250,000 PEAR units would be built per year at the facility. So far, reservations for the PEAR have topped 3,200.

Hightower said Lordstown Motors remains on track to launch production of its flagship vehicle, the Endurance truck, in the third quarter of this year with sales and deliveries in early 2023. The company plans to build 500 at first.

Still, Lordstown Motors announced in May it needs to raise about $150 million in new capital to launch.

The company doesn’t have an update on the fundraising effort, “but the exciting part about this is as we bring the product into production and as we have completed this relationship, this transaction with Foxconn, Lordstown (Motors) becomes that much (more) of an attractive investment,” Hightower said.

Wednesday’s tour included more than 40 people, including representatives from Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO); JobsOhio, the state’s private economic development corporation; and the American Institute in Taiwan, a nongovernmental agency created to carry out the United States’ unofficial relations with Taiwan.

From a strategy perspective, Hsiao said the tour was to frame a view, operate and localize point of view for the delegation as well as introduce to the what is possible with the MIH platform.

“We want to view the manufacturer and supply ecosystem and operate, localize here and bring the dedication, those partners from Taiwan, we want to invest with Foxconn in local together,” Hsiao said. “So bring their solution and find local partner to enable the technology and supply chain here.”

Johnson Chiang is director general of TECO’s Chicago office.

“For Foxonn’s involvement here in the region, we see Taiwan has a footprint in Ohio’s robust auto industry,” Chiang said. “I think it’s a very significant step and we want to see success. I hope that it is a, not only for Foxconn, but also for Taiwanese companies, a platform to invite them over here.”

Members of the MIH Consortium, a Foxconn initiative launched in October 2020 that is an independent entity that operates the “Open MIH EV Alliance” were also on the tour. The alliance is an open electric-vehicle technological ecosystem that promotes collaboration within the mobility industry to increase innovation and expanded business opportunities for members, according to Foxconn.

As of May 2022, MIH has brought together approximately 2,300 strategic partners from across the world for the purpose of finding and implementing next-generation EV manufacturing, autonomous driving and mobility service applications and solutions.

rselak@tribtoday.com

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