Economic Development

Lordstown Motors is ‘Great Opportunity’ for Suppliers

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Village Quality Solutions has a 30-year history at the former General Motors plant that Lordstown Motors Corp. acquired last year to manufacture its Endurance electric pickup truck later this year.    

The Cortland company, which offers engineering, inspection and containment services, was a contractor for GM’s Lordstown Complex, and represented multiple suppliers in the plant, said Christy Boone, quality coordinator. 

“We hope that we can return to provide those services with the Endurance,” she said. The launch of Lordstown Motors at the plant represents “a wonderful opportunity for the entire Valley.” 

Boone was among the more than 400 individuals representing potential suppliers to Lordstown Motors at the second of two procurement events hosted on the electric-vehicle startup’s behalf by the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber. 

Tuesday’s event focused on automotive suppliers, while the Jan. 29 event was targeted to facility suppliers. Attendees representing companies from more than 20 states attended the two events, which were held at Stambaugh Auditorium.

“All of the components that go into the vehicles for the manufacturing process is what we’re focusing on today,” said John LaFleur, chief operating officer. LaFleur and Darren Post, chief engineer for Lordstown Motors, addressed the supplier pool. 

“It’s an intriguing technology in a lot of ways. No one has ever done this before,” Post remarked. 

The Endurance, which will be powered by four in-wheel hub motors, is targeted to the fleet market – commercial, government and rental fleets, LaFleur said. 

Presentations at both procurement events had similar elements, including an opening video presentation by Lordstown Motors CEO Steve Burns, who was in Washington for the State of the Union Address and couldn’t attend the local event. Much of Tuesday’s program focused on aspects of the vehicle itself so the attendees could determine how their companies might contribute to the product. 

Though there is no specific percentage of local content targeted, the company would “clearly love” to have as many local suppliers as possible because of lower shipping costs and just-in-time delivery, LaFleur said. “We want to build this valley into an epicenter for electric vehicles,” he said. 

“We’re at the point now where we’re starting sourcing,” Post said. The company has assembled its proof-of-concept vehicle and is now refining the surfaces from a styling perspective before dies and molds are produced.

The plant has the capacity to manufacture more than 400,000 vehicles annually. Lordstown Motors is targeting a November production start and is looking at producing some 20,000 units in 2021, eventually ramping up to 50,000 and 100,000 annually. 

“This may be one of several vehicles to be manufactured on this platform, as well as possibly some delivery vehicles, utility vehicles, that type of thing as we move forward,” Post said. He touted the Endurance’s high fuel economy of 75 miles per gallon, low maintenance costs because of the lower number of parts in the vehicle, and its light weight. 

Darren Post describes some of the aspects of the Endurance electric truck.

“We’re using a lot of traditional steels,” from low carbon to high carbon, as well as composites for the hood, fenders and the rear box, he said. The Endurance will offer “the standard features that drivers traditionally want as well as lane departure and collision warning capabilities, 110 and 115-volt charging ports for people to power their tools, a front trunk and the ability to connect to Apple’s CarPlay and Android Auto.”

The vehicle also will have a lower center of gravity and better weight distribution – closer to 50/50 front and rear, as opposed to the normal 60/40 – providing for better traction as well as reduced rollover capability, he continued. The in-wheel hub motors provide power where it is needed and they require very little maintenance. 

In addition to the production line, Lordstown Motors plans to build a battery pack line and a hub motor manufacturing line, LaFleur said. Initial plans call for using just 40% of the space available in the plant. 

“We’ve got plenty more if anybody wants to talk about building their product in our factory,” he added.  

The company also needs suppliers who are “willing to pass the baton over to us as we grow our capabilities,” Post said. The company eventually plans to phase in use of the Lordstown plant’s stamping capabilities, LaFleur said. 

The event drew more than 400 company representatives.

Suppliers attending Tuesday’s session were largely optimistic about the opportunities.

“For our organization, I see all sorts of opportunities,” nearly too many to list, said Trent Schutte, account manager for Tooling Systems Group, Grand Rapids, Mich., which focuses on building part tooling for metal forming along with automation and assembly work. The auto industry accounts for about 80% of the Grand Rapids, Mich. company’s business. 

One potential source of business for Tooling Systems Group is the robotics equipment now in the plant, Schutte said. “We have a division that programs robotic arms and builds assembly cells,” he said. 

Radici Performance Plastics, an Italian company that has a plant in Wadsworth, has been developing products specifically for the electric vehicle market.

“This is a great opportunity,” said Edi Degasperi, Radici’s CEO for North America. Because the company is “really committed to the environment,” having the chance to work on an environmentally friendly vehicle is important, he added.  

Tad Shealy, sales manager with Bucyrus Precision Tech Inc. in Bucyrus, acknowledged he was unsure what opportunities there might be for his company. Bucyrus Precision manufactures transmission shafts, rear axle parts, steering shafts and other products for manufacturers including Honda and Toyota, but many of the products it makes have been “engineered out by this new technology,” he said.   

“We’re trying to adapt, and I’m sure there’s a few things on this vehicle that we would be able to supply,” he said. 

Colleen Zallow, Ohio representative for Judd Wire Inc. in Montague, Mass., was optimistic about prospects for her company, which manufactures a highly flexible high-voltage cable used in hybrid and electric vehicles. She met with engineers from Lordstown Motors who suggested she go speak to the purchasing representatives on hand at Tuesday’s event.

“They seemed very interested. It’s something they definitely need,” she said. 

Pictured above: John LaFleur, chief operating officer for Lordstown Motors Corp., and Darren Post, chief engineer, address the event.

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.