Lordstown Motors Seems Like It's Starting Its Crumble

Illustration for article titled Lordstown Motors Seems Like It's Starting Its Crumble
Photo: Getty Images (Getty Images)

The seams are beginning to show at Lordstown, Tesla is facing a bizarre lawsuit, and Nissan. All that and more in The Morning Shift for May 25, 2021.

Advertisement

1st Gear: Lordstown Motors Wants More Cash

Lordstown Motors still insists that it will be the first automaker to mass-produce an electric truck, targeting September for the Endurance’s rollout. Except now it says it needs more money to produce more trucks.

From The New York Times:

“What we are saying is that if we don’t get any funding, we might only make half of what we thought,” Lordstown’s chief executive, Steve Burns, said Monday during a conference call.

Mr. Burns said the company was still on track to begin making trucks by September.

Lordstown has had discussions with some strategic investors who could pump money into the company, he said, and it has looked into borrowing money by using its plant or other assets as collateral.

He also said the company was looking into borrowing from a federal government program meant to support the development of electric vehicles, but it was unclear if it had any funds left.

Lordstown would be able to make as many as 2,200 trucks by the end of the year if it gets funding, Mr. Burns said. Without additional capital, it would probably make fewer than 1,000.

Lordstown seems destined to be a failure. This is almost like a dare, the last swings of a boxer before knockout. It wouldn’t really be notable except Burns has previously talked a lot of shit about how advanced Lordstown would be by the end of this year. Here, for example, is Burns in March:

The company claims to be on track to build 57 beta prototypes this month that will be used for durability, crash-testing, and validation purposes. And then, it says, by September it claims it will be able to ramp up at a rate that it took Tesla many months to achieve with Model 3.

“We expect to make an Endurance every six minutes when we start production this year, and work our way up to an Endurance every four minutes next year,” said Burns.

“In my 15 years in the business I haven’t seen anybody get this far, except for of course Tesla,” he said, reiterating that the first Endurance models won’t be hand-built. “The first Endurance that comes off the line in September is fully automated—one every six minutes,” he said.

Advertisement

In his 15 years in the business, it seems that Burns has actually not gotten that far.

2nd Gear: Hydrogen Hyundai

Hydrogen fuel cell semis hold great promise as a green solution for long-distance trucking. Trucks aren’t so aerodynamic and hauling and towing at highway speeds is a big drain on power. Also it’s relatively easy to figure out new fueling setups for big trucking fleets versus the relative free-for-all of personal cars. In places other than America, hydrogen fuel cell trucks are starting to happen.

Advertisement

From Reuters:

South Korea’s Hyundai Motor (005380.KS) plans to ship a new series of fuel-cell trucks to Europe later this year, turning up the heat on rivals in a battle to test the viability of hydrogen-powered heavy goods transport.

A new class of the Xcient Hyundai truck, equipped with more efficient fuel cells with longer life-span, is due to arrive in Europe in the fourth quarter, said Mark Freymueller, CEO of Hyundai Hydrogen Mobility (HHM).

Hydrogen lags electric batteries in the green transport stakes because it is more expensive, but proponents say for long-haul transport hydrogen-powered trucks have the advantage because they have a greater range.

HHM, a joint venture between Hyundai and Swiss hydrogen company H2 Energy, has been renting out “green” hydrogen trucks to commercial clients in Switzerland since last October in the world’s most advanced pilot in the field.

Advertisement

3rd Gear: Nissan Is Talking ‘Synergies’ With Renault And Mitsubishi

Nissan, Renault, and Mitsubishi have been allies for over two decades now, so it is natural that they will seek to flex that alliance with electric vehicles. Nissan has long made the Leaf and Renault has long made the electric Zoe, so this is no great surprise, the bigger surprise is that they haven’t been doing more of this already.

Advertisement

From Reuters:

Nissan has already been sharing common platforms, powertrains and components with Renault and Mitsubishi, but those efforts have “reached the maximum we should do,” Ashwani Gupta, Nissan’s COO, told Reuters in an interview on Friday.

“That’s why we are shifting the gear of further synergies using electrification as the main pillar,” he said.

The focus will be on sharing batteries, electric powertrains and electronic architecture, he said, adding that adopting a uniform standard across the alliance would “contribute significantly” to economies of scale.

[...]

Renault Chief Executive Luca de Meo said this month the two companies are in talks to collaborate more by using the same battery technology, and Gupta said on Friday they have agreed on the common specifications of batteries.

Gupta also said that while keeping the distinctiveness of each brand was important in the alliance, the automakers would share “to eliminate the duplication of resources”.

Advertisement

4th Gear: The U.S. Is Proposing Billions For Chips

The global chip shortage has hit automakers hard, in large part based on a reliance from overseas suppliers. The Biden administration is now trying to do something about that, though this kind of feels like a day late and a dollar short.

Advertisement

From Reuters:

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said a proposed $52 billion boost in government funding for semiconductor production and research could result in seven to 10 new U.S. factories.

Raimondo said she anticipated the government funding would generate “$150 billion-plus” in investment in chip production and research - including contributions from state and federal governments and private-sector firms.

“We just need the federal money ... to unlock private capital,” Raimondo said Monday, adding, “it could be seven, could be eight, could be nine, could be 10 new factories in America by the time we’re done.”

She said she expected states will compete for federal funding for chip facilities and that the Commerce department would have a transparent process for awarding funding.

Raimondo was speaking Monday at an event outside a Micron Technology chip factory.

Advertisement

My intuition is that the global chip shortage will correct itself long before the U.S. government actually makes a difference, though I would be happy to be wrong.

5th Gear: Tesla Is Being Sued

I cannot make heads or tails of this one. Tesla is being sued by a worker who was fired after he says he reported to Tesla that copper was being stolen from ... Tesla.

Advertisement

From Bloomberg:

Lynn Thompson said in the complaint that he noticed millions of dollars worth of copper wire being measured and cut, put on pallets and hauled off site. He said that on multiple occasions, starting in April 2018, he reported the theft of the copper wire to Tesla’s senior management, including Musk, and contractor ONQ Global.

In June 2018, Thompson said he witnessed some people loading copper wire onto a truck and reported it to Tesla security, who called local law enforcement. A few days later, Thompson was told by Tesla management that he wasn’t allowed back at the Gigafactory, according to the complaint, filed Friday in federal court in Nevada.

“Since this time, Mr. Thompson has learned that Tesla and Musk pressured ONQ GLOBAL to stop allowing him on the work site and subsequently end his work at Tesla because of the outside reporting to law enforcement and internal reporting to senior management,” according to the complaint. “Tesla was afraid of the information that plaintiff learned and wanted to prevent the information from being disclosed to the media and shareholders.

Tesla didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

I have attached the full complaint below, which I have also read and am still no closer to understanding what is happening.

Advertisement

Reverse: Sigh

The ashes were then placed on the driver’s seat of his 10-year-old car, which had only 27,000 miles on the odometer.

Advertisement

Drive your cars! Sheesh.

Neutral: How Are You?

My local gym now says you can go maskless inside if you’re vaxxed, so I will probably give it a couple more weeks and then exercise for the first time in over a year. Weight gain during the pandemic has not been much of an issue — my body refuses to grow beyond 185 pounds despite my best efforts — but I would like to regain the ability to outrun zombies or something should need be. That first gym session is going to be bad, though, as all first gym sessions are.

News Editor at Jalopnik. 2008 Honda Fit Sport.

DISCUSSION

yeardley68
hoser68

First Gear: I am SHOCKED to find that a company with a gold presidential seal of endorsement would have financial problems a short time later. /s