On a Monday afternoon call with investors, Lordstown Motors CEO Steve Burns sounded positively bullish about the recent rollout of the Ford F-150 Lightning, which he called “a watershed moment.”
The Ford truck includes a $39,974 Lightning Pro model that remixes the bestselling truck nameplate in the industry as all-electric and potentially undercuts the Lordstown Endurance electric pickup in price.
Why would he be so excited? To Burns, the Lightning validates the positioning of the Endurance.
“I think that the competitive landscape is the most important part of our conversation here,” said Burns, pointing to Ford and how “it didn’t come up with a 600-mile truck or a wild-looking vehicle, same bed, same cab, about the same range, about the same pricing.”
“It’s quite remarkable that we are on par with somebody like that, at this point, and we’re hitting the market faster,” he said.
Not so fast. As Lordstown lamented in its update, it doesn’t have the funds to ramp up as quickly as it led investors to believe that it would earlier in the year—although it’s striving to keep the starting line for production at September.
Lordstown Motors factory - 2020
The company wants to keep its projected production ramp-up, of about 2,200 trucks produced by year-end. But that will take more money—more runway than the company’s IPO and its funding so far have given the company.
The company entered 2021 with $630 million in cash but expects to have about $50 million at the end of the year under the more conservative ramp-up. It originally planned to deliver its Endurance in December 2020, but last year delayed first deliveries to early 2021—before a push to September.
In short, the Endurance has cost more to bring to market than expected, and at present, Lordstown says that it has the funds to make about 1,000 trucks by the end of the year.
To fill that need, the company said that it might seek a federal ATVM loan—a program overseen by the U.S. DOE.
Lordstown remains under investigation by a federal SEC probe, focused around claims that it had 100,000 pre-orders for the truck. At the time that first came to light, in January, the company reported that it was at the “due diligence” phase of seeking federal ATVM (advanced technology vehicles manufacturing) loans, given out by the federal government. It didn’t provide a substantial update Monday on where it was in the process.
One of its big expenses has been crash-testing. Lordstown released images of the Endurance undergoing frontal testing and side-pole testing and said that the Endurance “remains on track to achieve five-star ratings” in federal NCAP testing.
Burns said that crash-testing is “why there are no small car companies usually in the United States.” The results “highly correlates, as they say, to our software emulation,” he reported, and in the frontal crash test, there was no penetration of the battery pack for this body-on-frame truck.
Lordstown still plans to build pre-production vehicles starting in July, with battery packs and motors built in-house, plus sub-assemblies, frames, and paint all completed within the plant. Some of those pre-production models will be headed to the NHTSA as part of final validation. Meanwhile, as pre-production vehicles are made, the company says that it will be continuing to fine-tune braking and vehicle dynamics ahead of FMVSS 100-series (crash avoidance) testing later this summer.
Lordstown claims that it will have the second-largest battery (pack) facility in the country when it’s fully up and running. And when production starts in late September, Lordstown claims that it will be “the largest manufacturer of automotive hub motors in the world.”
Its product isn’t quite in alignment with the F-150 Lightning, though. Ford last week outlined why it chose to avoid in-wheel hub motors in the F-150 Lightning.
Shifting focus to the F-150 Lightning might be a validation of Lordstown’s formula, but whether it proves an effective selling point to investors or even the federal government remains to be seen. Into the fall, as buzz builds around the Rivian R1T, Chevrolet Silverado EV, GMC Hummer EV, and Tesla Cybertruck, timing will be everything.