LORDSTOWN, Ohio – Lordstown Motors, a struggling electric vehicle startup, began to regain investor confidence on Monday by demonstrating the capabilities of four working prototypes at its Ohio plant.
In a rain-soaked parking lot, Lordstown engineers gave analysts, reporters and other visitors brief tries to show the acceleration and handling of the four Endurance vans.
Company officials said they are confident production will begin in the coming months and plan to manufacture around 1,000 trucks by the end of the year.
“We want you to see it – we want you to experience it,” said Angela Strand, Lordstown board member who was named executive chairman last week when the company ousted its two top executives. . âWe are committed to being the first to market a full-size, fully electric pickup truck. “
Ms Strand also said the company is looking for additional funding sources and “is evaluating multiple partners.”
The presentation followed a week in which the company delivered a series of conflicting statements about its outlook.
Lordstown gained attention because President Donald J. Trump once praised his proposal to revive an Ohio plant shut down by General Motors. The plant, in Lordstown, near the Pennsylvania border, was closed in 2019 and purchased by Lordstown Motors for $ 20 million.
A 90-minute visit 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 GM included some 900 industrial robots as well as hundreds of carts to transport parts to workstations, a half-dozen multi-million dollar stamping presses and masses of other equipment. production.
âAll of this allows us to bring this truck to market with less capital,â said Ian Upton, Lordstown’s director of production control.
But that day, only a handful of robots were shown manipulating and welding steel parts together.
Only one of the giant presses was in operation, and in a demonstration it stamped only one piece of sheet metal. Two engineers fed the sheet into the press, a task usually handled by automated machines.
At one station, Lordstown showed the body of a truck mated to a chassis, but the tooling to add the bed and front end was not yet in place. Workers nearby were adding the finishing touches to four truck platforms by hand.
In an area the size of a football field, where the wheel hub motors have to be assembled, the floor has been freshly painted but empty of machinery. The equipment is expected to arrive in August, company officials said, just a month before production begins. Company officials said they were confident it could be rolled out and pass quality testing at that time.
In addition to four prototypes of its base truck, the company showcased a military-grade vehicle, with three rows of seats, intended to suggest a potential area of ââbusiness.
Since its highly publicized creation, the company has encountered a series of development difficulties. One prototype caught fire and burned down in a Detroit suburb in January, and another abandoned a 280-mile off-road race in Baja California after just 40 miles.
Next, Lordstown’s board of directors admitted that some of the company’s statements regarding pre-orders were inaccurate, and the company said in a statement filed with securities regulators that it did not have enough information. money to start production and might not survive. This was followed by the resignations of its founder and CEO, Steve Burns, and CFO, Julio Rodriguez.
The start-up is one of a dozen or more EV companies that have jumped the usual route to becoming publicly traded, instead getting a stock market listing and raising hundreds of millions of dollars with relatively little control in merging with a special purpose acquisition company, DiamondPeak. Assets.
Shortly after the merger closed in October, Lordstown’s market value jumped to over $ 4 billion. His rise was aided by a series of announcements he made publicizing tens of thousands of âpre-ordersâ for his electric truck.
His fortunes took a turn this year when a small investment firm, Hindenburg Research, released a report noting that almost none of the pre-orders were a firm commitment to buy trucks, and some came from small companies that did not currently operate truck fleets.
In February, shortly before the Hindenburg report, a handful of executives sold around $ 8 million worth of shares. A few months earlier, insiders had sold $ 3 million worth of shares.
After a special committee of Lordstown’s board reviewed the share sales, the company said in a statement that they “were made for reasons unrelated to the performance of the company or the viability of the company. endurance”.
The Wall Street Journal raised questions on Monday about the timing of stock transactions, in particular the sale of Mr. Schmidt worth around $ 4.6 million in early February. The Journal said it used a portion of the proceeds to fund a Tennessee farm offering deer and turkey hunting, beef cattle and blueberries.
The sales took place before the company said the SEC 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 largest 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, down more than 5% on a day the overall market was up sharply. Stocks have lost two-thirds of their value since their peak in February.
If Lordstown is successful in making Endurance trucks, it will likely face some serious competition. Ford Motor has presented an electric version of its F-150 pickup, which is expected to go into production next year. GM is working on an electric version of its Chevrolet Silverado.
Matthew Goldstein contributed reports.