LORDSTOWN, Ohio — The Lordstown plant and its hometown have been a touchstone for decades for the automotive industry and politicians.
Thursday it again served as a backdrop for American ingenuity and battleground politics.
Boasting a goal of becoming the first fully all-electric truck maker in the world, the upstart company, Lordstown Motors, unveiled its prototype, a truck named “Endurance," which gets up to 250 miles per charge and retails for $52,500.
The truck, which has small motors in the wheels, made its debut by chauffeuring Vice President Mike Pence across the factory floor and onto the stage before hundreds of people, seated in chairs that were loosely spaced, most in masks. (Pence was not wearing a mask when he exited the truck.)
“This is just a great day, an exciting day, where not too long ago we had heartbreaking news,” Pence said referring to the General Motors 2018 announcement to shutter the plant and sell it. “Today is a new beginning for Lordstown and a new day for leadership with electric vehicles.”
The company and the vice president, who was joined by U.S. Secretary of Energy Dan Broulliette, offered the optimistic assessment that former GM plant will give rebirth to the Mahoning Valley as “Voltage Valley.”
In recent years, the plant, which produced the Chevy Cruze before closing, had become a political football as elected officials used it as backdrop to talk about American Workers and manufacturing.
With jobs leaving the plant, President Trump told workers during a nearby rally in 2017 that he would bring auto jobs back.
“Don’t move, don’t sell your house,” he said.
The next year, GM announced plans to close the plant. Trump then blasted GM and some local leaders. Democrats used the shutdown to criticize Trump for failed policies.
Pence said the return of jobs to the plant, which Lordstown Motors bought, is another promise kept by the president.
Pence also used the plant visit on Thursday to talk up the administration’s trade and economic policies, saying they helped lead to recoveries in Lordstown and elsewhere and that they will help U.S. bounce back from the pandemic that crushed the strong economy.
“We are putting the American people back to work,” he said. “Today is one more example of a great American comeback.
Today, Lordstown Motors is long way from being the GM plant that drove the economy here. The new company has about 70 workers, many of them engineers, uses about 100 contract employees.
But with 14,000 truck orders in hand, company CEO Steve Burns said he hopes to have at least 400 more employees working here as production ramps up. He said plans to produce the trucks in January have been delayed until summer because of the pandemic.
In 2016, the plant employed around 4,500 people, many of them in a union. Burns told 3News he does not oppose workers trying to unionize.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted both visited Lordstown Motors on Wednesday afternoon for a preview of the new pickup truck.
"I think this truck really has a great competitive advantage," Gov. DeWine said. "The fact that you all have been able to put this together, this quick, I'm just shocked that anybody could do that that quick."
You can see more of DeWine’s visit in the player below:
"The Endurance has the fewest moving parts of any motor vehicle," Lordstown Motors explains on their site. "This advancement leads to fewer maintenance costs and a significantly lower total cost of ownership than traditional commercial vehicles."
Pre-orders for the Endurance are now being accepted.
"The Endurance is the first commercial vehicle to feature four in-wheel hub motors," the company says. "This design reduces the number of moving parts and significantly improves vehicle control."
Lordstown Motors Corporation unveils all-electric pickup truck