GM offloads shuttered Lordstown plant to Ohio EV startup

Full details of the deal have not been released, but General Motors has sold its Lordstown, Ohio assembly plant to electric vehicle startup Lordstown Motors Corp. The Lordstown facility, located southwest of Cleveland, assembled over 16 million compact cars for GM in its 53 years of operation, starting with the Chevrolet Vega and ending with the Cruze.

Lordstown Motors plans to start assembly of its first production vehicle, the full-size Endurance commercial pickup truck, at the facility by the end of next year. Lordstown Motors will also be headquartered at the former GM site.

Lordstown Motors CEO and founder, Steve Burns, is aiming for the sprawling complex to become “an electric epicenter of the Midwest,” and anticipates some changes to the facility, including possibly locating suppliers on-site. “We are trying to make it different than it’s ever been there,” Burns told The Detroit News.

Under Lordstown Motors, the plant will employ 400 workers to start, a fraction of those previously employed by GM at the 6.2-million-square-foot factory, but the EV startup hopes to eventually have the facility running at full capacity.

“We are committed to the people of Lordstown, we will locate our headquarters in the Lordstown plant, and we plan to build the Endurance pickup truck utilizing experienced workers who helped produce millions of vehicles in this very same plant,” Burns said in a statement.

After the Endurance is introduced, LM is planning a mid-size pickup, to be followed by a commercial, industrial utility vehicle. Potential customers include municipalities and utility companies looking for an electric alternative for their fleets. The vehicles are being designed with commercial use by the trades in mind, with features like an onboard inverter to provide AC electricity for power tools. So far, however, there is no word on any dealer network or possible sales to retail customers.

Production of the Endurance is planned to start in late 2020. Towards that end, LM has hired Rich Schmidt as chief production officer. Schmidt formerly was director of manufacturing for Tesla, so he has some experience getting an EV startup into production.

GM Lordstown Assembly Plant

While discussions with the United Auto Workers have not yet taken place, Burns says that he wants LM’s workforce to be represented by the union. The deal to purchase the plant was held up until General Motors and the UAW concluded a new contract following the recent 40-day labor strike. Product allocations are typically part of automakers’ labor contracts and until the fate of the factory as a GM facility was resolved, the sale could not be consummated.

UAW Local 1112 represented GM’s employees at the Lordstown plant. In response to the news about the factory’s sale, local president Tim O’Hara, who worked at the facility for 41 years, said, “Nothing will replace the 5000 actual jobs associated with the GM plant and the thousands of spinoff jobs. If these potential workers are union-represented, we want UAW Local 1112 to represent whatever number of workers are involved.”

The union had reservations to the sale of the Lordstown complex when Workhorse, a sister company to Lordstown Motors initially proposed buying the facility. Workhorse holds 10 percent of Lordstown Motors equity and will license its hub-motor technology to LM. That would make the Endurance the first production all-wheel-drive vehicle to use hub-motors. Workhorse will also transfer 6000 existing preorders for its proposed W-15 electric pickup to Lordstown Motors.

In a statement released last week General Motors said, “GM is committed to future investment and job growth in Ohio and we believe LMC’s plan to launch the Endurance electric pickup has the potential to create a significant number of jobs and help the Lordstown area grow into a manufacturing hub for electrification.”

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