Electric truck maker interested in idled GM Lordstown plant

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After President Donald Trump boasted about the news on Twitter, General Motors’ CEO Mary Barra today confirmed in a statement that the automaker is negotiating to sell its idled Lordstown, Ohio, assembly plant to the Workhorse Group. Cincinnati-based Workhorse plans to make its W-15 range-extended electric pickup truck at the factory, which is located west of Cleveland.

Workhorse founder Steve Burns said that should the deal go through, it will mean “significant production and electric vehicle assembly jobs” for the region.

Barra called the pending deal a win-win. “Workhorse has innovative technologies that could help preserve Lordstown’s more than 50-year tradition of vehicle assembly work,” she said in a statement.

The GM CEO also affirmed the automaker’s commitment to creating more U.S. manufacturing jobs, specifically mentioning Ohio, where the company has been the target of criticism for shuttering the Lordstown facility. In a separate statement, the company said that it would be investing $700 million to expand its operations in Toledo, Parma, and Moraine, creating approximately 450 new manufacturing jobs for the Buckeye state.

Barra may have called it a win-win for “everyone,” but not everyone is on board with the idea. The Detroit News reports that Terry Dittes, vice president in charge of negotiating with GM for the United Auto Workers labor union, would rather the factory not be sold. “The UAW’s position is unequivocal: General Motors should assign a product to the Lordstown facility and continue operating it.”

Lordstown was one of four GM assembly plants in the United States to be “unallocated,” not given any plans for production of future vehicles. On March 6, 2019 a Chevrolet Cruze, the factory’s last vehicle, at least for now, rolled off its final assembly line.

If the sale of the plant is consummated, the UAW may take the position that the new owners must operate it as a union shop. The current contract between GM and the UAW, which will expire later this year, states, “Any sale of an operation as an ongoing business would require the buyer to assume the 2015 GM-UAW Collective Bargaining Agreement.” A court may eventually have to decide on the definition of “an ongoing business.”

Though Barra recently confirmed that GM will be making an electric pickup truck, the company’s path forward concerning electric trucks is unclear. The automaker broke off negotiations with EV pickup startup Rivian only to see Ford step in to take a half-billion dollar equity stake in that firm. Neither Barra’s nor Burns’ remarks addressed the possibility of Workhorse producing electric pickups for GM.

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