LORDSTOWN — Today, Lordstown Motors Corp. will unveil its first offering, the all-electric Endurance pickup truck.
The Endurance reveal, set to begin at noon, will be livestreamed on Lordstown Motors' YouTube channel.
Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted on Wednesday took a sneak peek at the vehicle, and said they got a charge out of the "Voltage Valley" brand.
"Their support means a lot. We're going to really try to grow the region," said Lordstown Motors CEO Steve Burns.
Speaking to reporters near the Hallock Young Road plant's solar field, DeWine and Husted reflected on General Motors' December 2018 announcement that it would idle the 6.2 million-square-foot facility, once home to the Chevrolet Cruze.
It happened just before they took office.
"Ohio's always been an auto state and an auto part state," DeWine said. "This is the future. I think this truck really has a great competitive advantage over its competitors.
"This is absolutely amazing how fast this has happened. I know for people in the Mahoning Valley, it seems like it's not happened fast enough. [The fact that] it's come from zero to 120 in a very short period of time, I find, frankly, amazing," he continued. "It's exciting. The Mahoning Valley, I believe, has a great, great future."
General Motors officially closed the 53-year-old plant in March 2019 and sold it to Lordstown Motors Corp. the following November, a deal that included an up to $40 million loan and buyback options.
According to a ProPublica/Business Journal investigation earlier this month, the state is seeking to recoup more than $60 million in public subsidies afforded GM in return for maintaining the former Lordstown Assembly Complex until at least 2027.
“We don’t necessarily have to get that cash back,” said DeWine, responding Wednesday to reporters’ questions on the clawback proceedings. “What we do want to see [are] things that promote jobs in Ohio.”
DeWine suggested the state’s ongoing conversations with the automaker aren’t adversarial and affirmed the state is not “actively pursuing a clawback.” Husted noted GM has other “major” investments in Dayton and Toledo.
“What we’re doing is having a very constructive discussion about how we can turn that into things that are helpful to them but also, most importantly, for us in the State of Ohio,” DeWine said. “Our focus every day has to be on jobs.”
Following the governors’ remarks, Burns reiterated the company’s goal to replenish most, if not all of the nearly 5,000 jobs that kept GM’s Lordstown Assembly Complex humming around the clock at its peak and exceed the daily output seen during GM’s Chevy Cruze era.
Before full-scale production of the Endurance begins next year, Lordstown Motors will look to bring on between 300 and 400 engineers and about the same number of line workers in the company’s first wave of hiring, Burns said Wednesday.
“A lot of people ask me, ‘What’s the endgame?’ This [plant] is built for one purpose — volume,” he said.
PROOF OF LIFE
California-based firm Hydra Design Labs designed the prototype that will be unveiled today. A teaser image of that final design can be found in the gallery above.
“A lot of people pre-ordered it without even seeing it,” Burns said Wednesday.
One of the Endurance’s early adopters is SERVPRO, a fire and water restoration company serving parts of Northeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania, which announced earlier this month it intends to buy 1,200 of them.
“The Endurance truck provides our company with added utility, flexibility and performance across all divisions,” Jim Standohar, SERVPRO marketing manager, is quoted in a release. “Our project managers look for value and economy, our production crew requires towing capacity and our construction division hauls on a regular basis, so we are excited to see how the Endurance truck will amplify our day-to-day operations.”
Momentum Groups, an Ohio-based fleet management specialist, announced in May it would pick up 900 units.
“We are thrilled to work with our neighbors at Lordstown Motors to offer this extremely efficient and powerful pickup truck to our customers, both small and large,” Jack Pyros, Momentum’s president, said in the release.
RIDE WITH LORDSTOWN
On Wednesday, the governors also took questions on electric vehicles as an emerging industry and the availability of charging stations in the state.
"We want to be a leader in this," Husted said.
The Ohio Department of Transportation is pursuing means to establish more electric vehicle charging stations along state and federal highways, Husted said.
In the case of the Endurance, Burns has previously said the truck, which is being marketed toward work fleet buyers, would likely be charged at the garage where it’s housed, and will be able to exceed 250 miles on a single charge.
In the past year, state legislators have introduced several bills that would incentivize electric vehicle use. One such bill introduced in December by state Sens. Sean O’Brien of Bazetta, D-32nd and Michael Rulli of Salem, R-33rd would offer up to $1,000 in sales tax credits for commercial fleet purchases, and $1,500 for new charging stations.
Tyler Fehrman, special projects manager for Clean Fuels Ohio, in February testified those tax incentives offer “not only the potential for encouraged, widespread use of electric vehicles — which leads to incredible environmental benefits — but it also opens the door for massive economic development opportunities here in our state, for an area that desperately needs it.”
Those bills, however, have been sidelined due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to an April report from The Center Square.
An Ohio-based electric vehicle maker also fits into the state’s DriveOhio initiative to build out the state’s transportation infrastructure for autonomous vehicles.
“We think we’re ahead of the game,” Husted said. “Michigan’s a competitor.”
While the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 2.72 percent Wednesday, anticipation for Cincinnati-based Workhorse Group — Burns’ former company, which has partial ownership of Lordstown Motors and contributed to the Endurance’s design — drove its stock up 21.60 percent, to close at $8.50.
Workhorse Group (NASDAQ:WKHS) on Tuesday received federal approval to sell its lines of electric delivery vans, and can now launch into production, according to The Motley Fool.
Workhorse last year remained in the running for a more than $6 billion contract to develop its next generation of electrified delivery vehicles — the largest government contract of its kind, Burns has said. The contract winner was expected to be awarded in late March, but a May 11 filing indicates the cutoff for proposals has been changed to July 14.
Burns has said the contract could mean steady manufacturing work for the Hallock Young Road plant, but the automaker's business plan doesn't depend on the award.
DeWine initially intended to visit the plant today, when Lordstown Motors plans to reveal the Endurance for the first time. His visit was shifted to Wednesday after Vice President Mike Pence announced he would appear and deliver remarks at today’s event.
When asked by reporters during Tuesday’s state coronavirus briefing why the governor opted for a separate tour of the facility, he said he and Fran have “avoided crowds” out of caution during the pandemic.
Pence did not wear a mask during a visit to the Mayo Clinic in early May — which are required for all visitors — a decision he later said he regretted.
DeWine on Tuesday said he won't ask Pence to wear one at the Lordstown event. On Wednesday, he disarmed similar questions from reporters about the reasoning behind his separation from today’s event.
He referenced an “amazingly constructive” relationship with Pence and medical officials during weekly conference calls on the state of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We all have a coronavirus problem. We’re all fighting it. We’re all trying to be more aggressive — [get] more testing — and doing all the things we need to do,” DeWine said.
When asked Wednesday about mask policy for today’s event, Burns said, “I couldn’t presume to tell the vice president to do anything.”
Lordstown Motors spokesperson Ryan Hallett, ending that line of questioning, said masks would be “highly recommended” during today’s reveal event and will be handed out to each attendee.
Members of the media and other Endurance event attendees were initially required to wear masks, via correspondence and agendas from event coordinators. Updated agendas delivered after Pence’s visit was announced stated masks would be “highly recommended.”
Local and state Democratic leaders view Pence’s visit as a campaign stop in a battleground state.
In a Wednesday roundtable including Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper and Youngstown Mayor Jamael Tito Brown, Democratic leaders criticized the Trump administration for neglecting the region.
One year before General Motors announced it would not allocate a vehicle to the Lordstown Assembly Complex, President Donald Trump famously told a Mahoning Valley crowd in 2017 not to sell their houses; that jobs would return to the region.
After the last Chevy Cruze rolled off the assembly line in February 2019, autoworkers previously employed at Lordstown are now “scattered everywhere,” said Ben Strickland, former shop chairman for United Auto Workers Local 1112, which represented GM Lordstown workers.
He estimated that 2,500 people have relocated after shifts were cut and the plant ultimately closed.
Pepper called today’s visit “too little too late for the people of the Mahoning Valley.”
Despite the shared disappointment in Trump’s failure to intervene to stop the closure of the plant, Mayor Brown is hopeful the administration can assist the city in its recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re not asking for stimulus, we’re just asking for stability,” said Brown.
Pepper argued the community shouldn’t expect much from national politicians’ periodic stops in the Mahoning Valley.
“It’s a pattern the Valley has seen every four years for a long time,” said Pepper.
— Reporter Jess Hardin contributed to this report.