Lordstown Motors Corp.
Joe Burrow Lordstown Motors

Exclusive: As it begins its comeback, Lordstown Motors calls on Joe Burrow

June 22, 2022
FleetOwner was given exclusive behind-the-scenes access as EV startup Lordstown Motors readies production at the Ohio plant it just sold to Foxconn. Its new marketing campaign for the Endurance EV work truck will star Super Bowl LVI QB Joe Burrow.

LORDSTOWN, Ohio—Star quarterback Joe Burrow came back from a major injury to lead the Cincinnati Bengals to their first Super Bowl in more than 30 years. Lordstown Motors Corp. is hoping to borrow some of their brand ambassador’s comeback magic. The embattled Ohio-based startup says it will finally begin producing the Lordstown Endurance, its fleet-focused EV pickup truck, in the coming months.

Lordstown Motors started with loads of promise when it acquired this expansive plant from General Motors and announced the Endurance in 2020, but two years later it teetered on the brink of insolvency. But a Hail Mary pass by the company’s new leadership closed a deal with Foxconn to launch the fledgling electric truck maker’s potential comeback story.

Lordstown’s relationship with Burrow, who grew up in southern Ohio, began when he signed a sponsorship deal with the fleet EV startup in 2020. The 2021 NFL Comeback Player of the Year made his first visit to the expansive plant here in northeast Ohio on June 21. FleetOwner was given exclusive behind-the-scenes access as Lordstown Motors readies a new marketing campaign for its Endurance EV work truck.

See also: Analysis: Lordstown Week manufactures more questions than answers 

The last Endurance Burrow saw in person was an early prototype. “The inside wasn’t finished yet,” the quarterback recalled. “So I was excited to see the dash and how minimalist it is. It was all touchscreen. I just think that looks awesome.”

“For sure,” he told FleetOwner when asked if he could see himself driving one. “Yeah. In the winter, I’m gonna be whipping that thing.”

For the company to succeed, it will need fleets around the country to feel the same excitement for the truck.

Staging another Lordstown comeback

Lordstown Motors executives told FleetOwner that the deal to sell the giant manufacturing facility to Hon Hai Technology Group, known as Foxconn in the U.S., allows the EV startup to focus on truck design and technology while benefiting from Foxconn’s manufacturing expertise. 

The company is also relying on Burrow’s star power and passion for sustainability to help it get noticed in the commercial vehicle space, which is getting more crowded with EV startups and traditional OEMs creating battery-electric trucks. 

The NFL star might be the only non-fleet owner to get his hands on a Lordstown Endurance this year. (He was told he'd have four colors to choose from: white, gray, silver, and black. "Silver sounds pretty good," he told a table of company executives.)

“Our mission was to accelerate the fleet transition towards electrification,” Edward Hightower, Lordstown Motors president, told FleetOwner while Burrow went through one of several wardrobe changes between photo and video shoots at the 680-acre Lordstown facility. 

Shadowed by a 13-person production team, the Bengals quarterback spent several hours at the Lordstown plant, riding in an Endurance truck, learning how it’s produced, and speaking with executives and other workers as the EV prepares to start promoting its initial fleet truck. 

Burrow, who won the Heisman Trophy and College Football National Championship before becoming the first overall draft pick in 2020, suffered a season-ending knee injury midway through his rookie year. But after a rigorous rehab regime, he returned for the 2021 season to lead the Bengals on several come-from-behind victories on their way to Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles.

After a rocky 2021 that saw their founder and CEO resign and stock values plummet by 80% to start 2022, Lordstown Motors' relatively new leadership team hopes their work behind the scenes this year will pay similarly.

While many consumers—Burrow included—are embracing EVs that can recharge in their garage, fleets are focused on the potential uptime and reduced fuel costs that commercial EV-makers are promising. Hightower said the Lordstown EV work truck is designed for service, utility, and last-mile fleets.

With a base price of $60,375, the Endurance has a gross vehicle weight of 7,500 lb. and offers a 1,000-lb. payload, and 8,000-lb. towing capacity. Lordstown said it offers up to 200 miles per charge, based on testing. It plans to produce 500 trucks in Q3, with fleet deliveries beginning in Q4. 

The Endurance uses four hub motors to provide better traction and drive more like a sports car, according to LMC. Each hub motor has a 110-kW output, translating to 550 horsepower. The 0-60 mph time is 5.5 seconds, according to the company. 

“Anyone that uses a pickup truck will see with the Endurance they have a lower total cost of ownership,” Hightower said. “They really are not giving up anything in terms of capability. They’ll certainly appreciate not visiting the gas station—especially today.”

What the Foxconn deal means for Lordstown

After pushing back Endurance delivery timelines late in 2021, Lordstown Motors was running out of money in the first half of 2022, coming within days of defaulting on a $200 million contract with Foxconn. In May, Lordstown ended up selling the Taiwanese company its giant manufacturing complex, a former General Motors plant outside Youngstown, Ohio. The Chevy Cruze was built here until 2019.

Part of the recent deal between the EV truck company and Foxconn, which included $230 million in cash for Lordstown Motors, is a proposed joint product development arrangement to share expertise and resources across organizations.

Foxconn plans to produce the Lordstown Endurance in this mostly vacant plant as it converts the site into a state-of-the-art EV manufacturing facility. Lordstown has plans to build other fleet trucks there in the future along with other EV companies.

See also: Lordstown Motors, Foxconn come to terms

Foxconn’s Mobility-in-Harmony open-source platform will also be available to smaller, more specialized vehicle companies looking for ways to scale production. According to Hightower, Foxconn’s modular MIH platform reduces development costs, lead times, and resource requirements.

Hightower told FleetOwner that the joint venture with Foxconn meets the EV ambitions of both companies. “Their expertise as a contract manufacturer combined with our expertise in developing vehicles from concept through launch: the design, engineering, testing, homologation, industrialization, sourcing of electric vehicles for our fleet customers, makes it a great partnership,” he explained. “And it allows us to operate with a more asset-light business model by not having a physical plant, making our cost structure completely variable on the vehicle.”

He said that OEM users of this flexible MIH platform, manufacturing footprint, and supply chain could achieve production scale at lower volumes and shorter time to market. 

“The Endurance is really the beginning of our story, not the end,” Hightower said. “We're going to build a broader portfolio of commercial-fleet-focused vehicles—other than full-size pickups off of the platform that Foxconn has developed, and we're going to codesign and engineer those with them.” 

Calling in No. 9

Burrow, who drives a Porsche Taycan EV, said he couldn’t imagine going back to an internal combustion engine. The sustainability of EVs and Lordstown’s location drew Burrow in two years ago. “It’s an Ohio company. I try to support all things Ohio,” he told FleetOwner. “They bought this plant and opened it. I thought it was just an awesome thing to align myself with.”

Gasoline prices in Ohio this week averaged more than $5 per gallon for the first time. While his national image grows, Burrow might be Ohio’s favorite son. 

Before his sponsorship deal with Lordstown here in northeastern Ohio, he grew up in southeastern Ohio, where the Athens High School football stadium bears his name. After initially attending Ohio State University to play football, he transferred to Louisiana State University, where he led the Tigers to the 2019 national championship. Earlier this year, he was one play away from winning the Super Bowl for Cincinnati. 

“There are a lot of connections to Ohio with Joe. And he’s also passionate about electric vehicles and the environment—there’s just a really good match in terms of company culture,” Lordstown CEO Daniel Ninivaggi told FleetOwner

Ninivaggi said the quarterback epitomizes Lordstown’s catchphrase: “Work for it.”

“So it was a really good fit. And we obviously got him at the right time,” the CEO said. “And he’s done great. The fact that he’s out here today. He could have come up with 10 different reasons not to spend the day in Lordstown, Ohio.”

Lordstown signed on Burrow as brand ambassador after the Cincinnati Bengals drafted the Heisman Trophy winner in 2020. After suffering a season-ending knee injury during his rookie year, Burrow returned in 2021 to lead the Bengals to their first NFL playoff win in 30 years and first Super Bowl appearance since the 1988 season. 

Burrow’s Bengals' stunning success not only surprised NFL fans but also Lordstown’s marketing team. “We actually did have a whole photoshoot planned for him in L.A. before the Super Bowl—then we had to scrap the whole thing because he was playing in the Super Bowl,” Ninivaggi recalled while Burrow took some laps around the Lordstown test track in white Endurance pickup. 

“It’s been awesome,” Burrow said at the end of his tour around the complex. “I’ve never seen a plant before. I always kind of wondered what went in it. And it’s a lot. Surprise, surprise,” he said with a smirk, “a lot more than I expected.”

Midwestern work ethic

Burrow brings a reputation for being a hard-working Midwesterner who puts his head down and does the behind-the-scenes work to succeed on the big stages. “The work ethic is amazing with him,” Ninivaggi said. “And every company needs that sort of work ethic to be successful. The splashy headlines only go so far. You have to grind through all the discipline to actually produce a vehicle. Anybody who’s in the industry knows that’s not a fast process.”

Ninivaggi, who was on the Navistar International board of directors, took over as Lordstown CEO in 2021. At that time, the startup EV company was in disarray after a rough start to the year, noting in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that it had “substantial doubt regarding our ability to continue.” Days later, its CEO and founder resigned.

“When I joined, we got back to the fundamentals,” Ninivaggi said. “We said, look, this is a good truck, good concept. We’re going after a great part of the market. And a lot of work had been done. But we had to go back to the fundamentals to make sure that we were building it properly.”

To build the Endurance truck, Ninivaggi brought in a new team after he took over in August 2021. “We went back and we reexamined every single thing that had been done,” he said. “About a year later, we’re ready to go into production.”

He said that Lordstown Endurance production will begin for commercial fleet customers (and Joe Burrow) in Q3. Deliveries of up to 500 EV trucks would follow in Q4, executives told FleetOwner. They hope to have five times as many trucks built by the end of 2023. 

“It’s the best of both worlds, right?” Burrow said. “The flashiness of the EV and the grit of a work truck. That’s kind of how I see myself. I like to wear sunglasses. And when it’s time to go to work, I’ll go to work.”

About the Author

Josh Fisher | Editor-in-Chief

Editor-in-Chief Josh Fisher has been with FleetOwner since 2017, covering everything from modern fleet management to operational efficiency, artificial intelligence, autonomous trucking, regulations, and emerging transportation technology. He is based in Maryland. 

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