Lordstown Motors Corp. seeks U-turn on image
Electric-truck maker gives tour of plant, test rides following negative events
LORDSTOWN — Electric-truck startup Lordstown Motors Corp., in an effort to restore confidence in the company rocked in recent months by events that caused its stock to freefall, opened the doors to its factory and gave visitors a chance to ride in a prototype vehicle Monday.
It was the first day of Lordstown Week, a weeklong chance for investors, auto analysts, potential customers and the media to engage company executives, tour the sprawling plant and get a small window into how the company is preparing to start production of its full-size Endurance pickup in September.
It also happened amid the latest news to come out about the company — that shortly before Lordstown Motors released a poor first-quarter earnings report March 17 — the same day officials disclosed a federal regulatory probe — several executives sold millions in stock.
That revelation Monday is the most recent hit taken by the beleaguered company. In recent months it has found itself the subject of a scathing short-sellers report, multiple lawsuits, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigation and questions over whether it can stay in business.
Also, last week two top executives, including its founder and CEO Steve Burns, resigned, and the company found itself walking back statements it had firm, binding orders.
Monday’s factory tour of seven stops, including the previously hidden state-of-the-art battery pack and hub motor lines, kept to a strict schedule and limited questions by the media to technical matters related to the manufacturing process and truck. Photos also were limited to three of the stops inside the factory.
Visitors were given the chance to experience a beta version test ride to display the truck’s handling and power on a road course.
“That’s a bit unique,” newly appointed interim CEO Angela Strand said. “I know it’s very unique, very common for automotive to keep everything under wraps. We would like for you to see it, see for yourselves, and we are confident you will come away with a fantastic experience.”
A military prototype also was put through its paces on a mud track at the factory. Visitors were given a chance to ride along.
At the 400,000-square-foot space carved out to produce the truck’s hub motors, Rajeev Lamba, director of hub motors, said when operational, it will be the largest hub motor production space in the world.
The space was empty Monday. The plan is to be setting up the line by August so “by September all lines are fully ready with complete validation of all quality controls, process capability,” he said.
Machine validation has been done by the supplier in Malaysia, but when it arrives, a factory acceptance test is needed to make sure it was not damaged in transit or changed.
Factory acceptance testing one month prior to launch is “sufficient time because we have already proven the technology when we are getting it,” Lamba said.
The tour also included the stamping, body and paint shops, and general assembly.
John Wood is director of general assembly. His career in auto making goes back 20 years, including 12 years at General Motors, the plant’s owner before the automaker shut it down in March 2019.
“My last assignment with General Motors was to help close this place down,” he said. “I’m ecstatic to be part of the team that is going to reopen it.”
Wood oversees about 40 employees. General assembly takes the work done in stamping, body and paint, and motor and battery lines and puts it all together. “By the time we are done, we drive the Endurance off the end of the line.”
General assembly is split into two parts — the trim line that includes electrical and safety components, interior cab components, and chassis line, which includes battery, frame, motors and brakes. It’s where the completed chassis and cab are married.
“You can see from the top of cab up in that carrier, a lot of room. Things like a van will fit right in there, things like a carrier van, a work van will fit right in the system that we have set up, along with every other line that we have,” Wood said.
After the marriage, the thermal and electrical system will be connected, the bed will be added, the frunk — the space that would be occupied by an internal combustion engine in a gas-powered vehicle — will be installed, as will the wheels and fluids. The truck, Wood said, will be tested and programmed, too, before it rolls off the line.
Lordstown Week continues through Friday. It is not open to the public. For those unable to attend in-person, the company is planning a virtual recreation of the week with a live question-and-answer session with company officials. It will be available on the company’s website 2:30 p.m. Friday.
The company’s stock, which has lost half of its value so far this years, slid 5 percent to close trading Monday at $10.07 per share.