Mike Pence says Workhorse has secured financing

Vice President Mike Pence Tuesday said Workhorse Group Inc., a Cincinnati-based tech company that would have a stake in a fleet-style electric pickup truck startup interested in buying the idled General Motors plant in Lordstown, has secured financing.

But whether that’s to purchase the sprawling assembly plant is unclear; a person who handles public relations for Workhorse didn’t return calls for comment.

Meanwhile, a person familiar with the matter said Workhorse has not secured funding to buy the plant.

“As you know after GM made that announcement, President (Donald) Trump made it clear that we wanted to see GM do better. We’re very pleased that they stepped forward. Workhorse, I learned just this week, secured the financing to move forward to keep jobs in that community. We’re going to continue to look for ways to support that,” Pence said.

Pence made the comments to the media while in Lancaster, southeast of Columbus, for a groundbreaking of a new manufacturing plant for Magna International, which makes components for cars and trucks.

“But it’s important also to note, as Lordstown goes through that process and that change, we’re still seeing investment like we’re celebrating here in Fairfield County. General Motors is still investing hundreds of millions of dollars in Ohio alone, creating all new jobs and to keep that momentum going, completing the USMCA (United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement) will absolutely be essential,” Pence said. “For the sake of Lordstown, for sake of the new company Workhorse that will be coming there, for the sake of Magna Seating Columbus, we have to get the USMCA done.”

Workhorse, which designs and manufacturers electric fleet-style delivery trucks, would hold a minority stake in the yet-to-be-named startup by Workhorse founder and ex-CEO Steve Burns, who hopes to purchase the GM facility to produce what he’s said would be meat-and-potatoes-style electric fleet pickup trucks.

GM announced in May it was in talks to unload the plant to Burns’ fledgling company. Since, questions about Workhorse’s financial stability have risen and officials have doubled-down on their calls for GM to assign a new vehicle to the plant, which for about 10 years had produced one of the company’s better-selling vehicles, the Chevrolet Cruze.

It’s now hoped by some that contract negotiations between the automaker and United Auto Workers will result in GM placing a new vehicle at the plant.

“What has been going on, there has been a lot of work going on between GM and the new company and Workhorse in terms of inspecting the plant, the equipment, the overall property, mostly from a standpoint of due diligence — all of which is a prelude to investor outreach to acquire the property, retool and launch production,” said GM spokesman Jim Cain.

While this is happening, Workhorse announced it secured $25 million in private investment to meet demand for orders. Not part of the announcement in June was that any of the money would be used for GM Lordstown.

Anything that helps Workhorse advance its business helps facilitate the project in Lordstown, Cain said, and “makes for a strong partner in the overall effort.

“They are on plan. They have to complete due diligence elements first, what exactly is being bought and sold — things like equipment in the plant that will be transferred with the sale — the environmental due diligence,” Cain said.