Start-up unveils new EV truck at former GM Ohio auto plant

WASHINGTON, June 25 (Reuters) - Lordstown Motors Corp unveiled its future electric pickup truck at an event on Thursday as the startup seeks to begin producing vehicles at a former General Motors factory in northeastern Ohio.

By David Shepardson

Lordstown Motors, which hopes to start delivering the electric pickup to customers by January 2021, will face significant competition from other automakers.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence was driven on stage in the pre-production Endurance vehicle on Thursday in the politically important state.

“After a heartbreaking day in 2019, to see this kind of a comeback – I hope you see it’s a testament to the confidence the people of this company have in the people of this community,” Pence said. “It’s a nice ride. I’m a truck guy.”

Also on Thursday, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co announced a strategic relationship with Lordstown Motors and said it would acquire new Endurance vehicles for its fleet.

Lordstown Chief Executive Steve Burns said the company would “beat everyone to market” with the first EV truck. Pence said Lordstown has presold 14,000 vehicles.

The sprawling GM plant’s fate became a political lightning rod after the largest U.S. automaker announced its planned closure in November 2018, drawing condemnation from President Donald Trump and many U.S. lawmakers.

On Thursday, the campaign of Trump’s presumptive Democratic rival in the November election, former Vice President Joe Biden, said “Trump and GM abandoned Ohio’s union workers.” The campaign cited a 2017 Trump speech in nearby Youngstown, Ohio, in which Trump said jobs were “all coming back” and urged residents: “Don’t move. Don’t sell your house.”

As recently as 2016, the GM plant employed 4,500 workers. Its March 2019 closure was devastating to the area. Lordstown Motors has to date hired just 70 employees and about 100 contractors.

Lordstown Motors, which is 10% owned by Workhorse Group Inc , bought the former GM plant and equipment for $20 million as part of its ambitious plan to begin delivering electric pickup trucks to customers by year end – a goal which has since been delayed to January.

Other firms are preparing to enter the electric truck sector.

GM plans to build its first electric pickup truck in 2021. Tesla Inc plans to start building its electric Cybertruck in 2021, while Nikola Corp plans to build an electric truck by 2022.

Electric vehicle startup Rivian plans to build an electric pickup truck starting in late 2020, while Ford Motor Co will introduce an electric F-150 truck in 2022.

In December, GM and South Korea’s LG Chem said they would invest $2.3 billion to build an electric vehicle battery cell joint-venture plant near the Lordstown plant. (Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Nick Zieminski)


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