Workhorse Is Apparently Trying To Be The Saddest Of The Car Startups

The company said Wednesday it is suspending deliveries of its C-1000 and recalling 41 vehicles that have been delivered.

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Workhorse, the electric van startup that failed to get the new USPS mail truck contract, then protested that decision, then, last week, withdrew that protest in failure, said Wednesday that it was suspending deliveries of its flagship C-1000 van. This is apparently because it needs modifications to meet federal safety standards.

This also sounds like a mess left to Workhorse by previous management, or at least that’s what I would say, too, if I were in Workhorse’s position. The C-1000 is an all-electric delivery van, so-called for its 1,000 cubic feet of interior volume. There is also the smaller C-650, which has 650 cubic feet of volume, and which I don’t think exists just yet. Anyway, today is about the C-1000. From Workhorse’s release:

The Company has identified a number of enhancements in the production process and design of the C-1000 to address customer feedback, primarily related to vehicle dynamics to increase the vehicles’ payload capacity. As Workhorse has identified these enhancements and continued its review and redesign of the C-1000, the Company has decided to suspend deliveries of C-1000 vehicles and recall 41 vehicles it has already delivered. As part of these efforts, the new leadership team has determined that additional testing and modifications to existing vehicles are required to certify the C-1000 vehicles under Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS).

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The “new leadership team” would be someone named Rick Dauch, who was appointed Workhorse CEO in July, replacing someone named Duane Hughes, who says on his LinkedIn page that he is now an “independent contractor” after being CEO of Workhorse for two-and-a-half years. Hughes, of course, took over for Steve Burns, who until recently was CEO of Lordstown Motors, which has not been a success.

In Hughes’ case, I’m guessing that his continued employment probably hinged on Workhorse getting the USPS contract, or maybe Hughes simply wasn’t great at his job. I say that because Workhorse’s release today also includes the following, emphasis mine.

The Company has filed a report with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regarding the need for additional testing and vehicle modifications to certify its C-1000 vehicles under FMVSS, and intends to fully coordinate with NHTSA. The Company has not received any customer reports of safety issues related to this matter in any of the C-1000 vehicles previously delivered by Workhorse.

Additional details will be available in the Company’s filing with NHTSA. Accordingly, the Company’s previous statements related to the C-1000’s compliance with NHTSA standards cannot be relied upon and the Company has so notified the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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Look, I understand the point of many car startups is not to, you know, actually mass produce cars, but instead to convince investors that they can mass produce cars; whether they actually can or not isn’t the point, or at least not the immediate one. And I’m not saying that Workhorse can’t, but the evidence at this juncture isn’t looking too positive.