Lordstown Motors Opens Up Its Electric Truck Factory to Show Progress

LORDSTOWN, Ohio — Lordstown Motors, a troubled electric-vehicle start-up, began a push to win back the confidence of investors on Monday by demonstrating the abilities of four working prototypes at its Ohio factory.

In a rain-soaked parking lot, Lordstown engineers gave analysts, reporters and other visitors brief test rides to show off the acceleration and handling of the four Endurance pickup trucks.

Company officials said that they were confident that production would begin in the next several months and that they expected to make about 1,000 trucks by the end of the year.

“We want you to see it — we want you to experience it,” said Angela Strand, a Lordstown board member who was appointed executive chairwoman last week when the company ousted its two top executives. “We are committed to being first to market with an all-electric, full-size pickup truck.”

Ms. Strand also said the company was looking for additional sources of funding and was “evaluating multiple partners.”

The presentation followed a week in which the company delivered a series of contradictory statements about its outlook.

Lordstown has attracted attention because President Donald J. Trump once hailed its bid to revive an Ohio plant closed by General Motors. The plant, in Lordstown, near the Pennsylvania border, was closed in 2019 and bought by Lordstown Motors for $20 million.

A 90-minute tour on Monday showed the progress Lordstown has made in setting up its assembly line but also how far it has yet to go.

Its purchase of the plant from G.M. included some 900 industrial robots as well as hundreds of carts for ferrying parts to work stations, a half-dozen multimillion-dollar stamping presses and masses of other production equipment.

“All of this enables us to bring this truck to market with less capital,” said Ian Upton, Lordstown’s director of production control.

But on this day only a handful of robots were shown handling and welding steel parts together.

Just one of the giant presses was operating, and in a demonstration it stamped just a single piece of sheet metal. Two engineers fed the sheet into the press, a task usually handled by automated machinery.

At one station, Lordstown showed the body of a truck being mated to a chassis, but the tooling to add the bed and front end were not yet in place. Nearby workers were adding finishing touches onto four truck beds by hand.

In an area the size of a football field, where wheel-hub motors are to be assembled, the floor was freshly painted but empty of machinery. The equipment is due to arrive in August, company officials said, just a month before production is to start. Company officials said they were confident it could be set up and pass quality tests in that time.

In addition to four prototypes of its basic truck, the company showed a military-grade vehicle, with three rows of seats, meant to suggest a potential area of business.

Since its high-profile inception, the company has run into a series of development difficulties. A prototype caught fire and burned up in a Detroit suburb in January, and another dropped out of a 280-mile off-road race in Baja California after just 40 miles.

Then Lordstown’s board acknowledged that some of the company’s statements about pre-orders were inaccurate, and the company said in a statement filed with securities regulators that it did not have enough money to start production and might not survive. That was followed by the resignations of its founder and chief executive, Steve Burns, and its chief financial officer, Julio Rodriguez.

The start-up is one of a dozen or more electric vehicle companies that skipped the typical route for becoming publicly traded, instead gaining a stock listing and raising hundreds of millions of dollars with relatively little scrutiny by merging with a special purpose acquisition company, DiamondPeak Holdings.

Soon after the merger closed in October, Lordstown’s market value jumped to more than $4 billion. Its rise was helped by a series of announcements it made publicizing tens of thousands of “pre-orders” for its electric truck.

Its fortunes took a turn this year when a small investment firm, Hindenburg Research, issued a report noting that almost none of the pre-orders were firm commitments to buy trucks, and that some had come from small companies not currently operating truck fleets.

In February, shortly before the Hindenburg report, a handful of executives sold about $8 million worth of stock. A few months earlier, insiders had sold $3 million worth of shares.

After a special committee of Lordstown’s board reviewed the stock sales, the company said in a statement that they “were made for reasons unrelated to the performance of the company or viability of the Endurance.”

The Wall Street Journal raised questions on Monday about the timing of the stock trades, in particular Mr. Schmidt’s sale of about $4.6 million worth in early February. The Journal said he had used some of the proceeds to finance a Tennessee farm offering deer and turkey hunting, beef cattle and blueberries.

The sales took place before the company said the S.E.C. had first requested information about its pre-order claims and other issues surrounding its merger with DiamondPeak.

Despite his departure from the company, Mr. Burns remains one of Lordstown’s biggest shareholders. A recent regulatory filing showed that he owned about 26 percent of the voting shares and had not sold any.

On Monday, Lordstown shares closed at $10.07, a decline of more than 5 percent on a day when the overall market was up sharply. The shares have lost two-thirds of their value since their peak in February.

If Lordstown manages to make Endurance trucks, it will probably face serious competition. Ford Motor has introduced an electric version of its F-150 pickup, which is supposed to go into production this year. G.M. is working on an electric version of its Chevrolet Silverado.

Matthew Goldstein contributed reporting.

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