Lordstown Motors files for bankruptcy, sues Foxconn
Lordstown Motors filed for bankruptcy protection on Tuesday and put itself up for sale after the US electric truck manufacturer failed to resolve a dispute over a promised investment from Taiwan company Foxconn.
Lordstown, named after the Ohio town where it is based, filed for Chapter 11 protection in Delaware and simultaneously took legal action against Foxconn.
In an complaint filed in bankruptcy court, Lordstown accused the electronics company of fraudulent conduct and a series of broken promises in failing to abide by an agreement to invest up to $170m (roughly R3.16m) in the electric-vehicle manufacturer.
Foxconn previously invested about $52.7m (roughly R978.7m) in Lordstown as part of the agreement, and currently holds a roughly 8.4% ownership stake in the EV maker. Lordstown contends Foxconn is balking at purchasing additional shares of its stock as promised, and misled the EV maker about collaborating on vehicle development plans.
Foxconn, formally called Hon Hai Precision Industry and best known for assembling Apple's iPhones, has said Lordstown breached the investment agreement when the carmaker's stock fell below $1 per share. Foxconn did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The twin filings of the bankruptcy and lawsuit set up an international business clash that could intensify scrutiny of Foxconn's EV ambitions and partnerships, not only with Lordstown but also other carmakers.
The lawsuit portrays Foxconn as consistently shifting goalposts in its collaboration with Lordstown on the carmaker's future vehicles, which included failing to meet funding commitments and refusing to engage with the company on initiatives Foxconn allegedly directed and purported to support.
Lordstown, a start-up launched in 2018, said in a regulatory filing earlier this month it had planned to sue Foxconn after receiving a letter from the company that led Lordstown to believe Foxconn was unlikely to make its additional expected investment.
Lordstown accused Foxconn in that regulatory filing of engaging in a “pattern of bad faith” that caused “material and irreparable harm” to the company. Even in May, Lordstown warned it might be forced to file for bankruptcy amid uncertainty over the Foxconn investment.
The carmaker’s main product is the Endurance electric pickup truck, which is built at a former General Motors small-car factory in Lordstown, Ohio, for commercial customers such as local governments. Lordstown sold the plant to Foxconn in 2022.
Lordstown paused production of the Endurance earlier this year and since April has resumed building the trucks at a low rate after resolving quality issues with suppliers. The carmaker's shares have plunged since February and currently trade under $3.
Should Lordstown fail to find a rescuer willing to restart full production of the Endurance, the Ohio factory now owned by Foxconn could be a draw for overseas carmakers looking for a quick way to build vehicles in the US.
Lordstown filed for bankruptcy with plans to seek a buyer. It does not have an initial offer in hand, known in bankruptcy parlance as a stalking-horse bidder, which sets a minimum price other suitors can top in an auction.
Lordstown CEO Edward Hightower told Reuters the Endurance business could prove attractive to another carmaker looking for a fast entry into the EV market at a time the Biden administration's policies are attempting to move away from petrol-powered cars.
Lordstown's bankruptcy is not the first among the crop of EV start-ups that went public during the pandemic-era SPAC boom. But Lordstown was a high-profile member of that class because it was challenging the core of the legacy Detroit carmakers' business of high-margin pickup trucks, and because of its location.
The Lordstown factory in Northeast Ohio was formerly a GM small-car factory that GM decided to close in November 2018. Then-US president Donald Trump and other Ohio political leaders put pressure on GM CEO Mary Barra to reverse the decision, or find a buyer. GM agreed to sell the plant to a newly formed entity called Lordstown Motors founded by the former top executive at an electric truck maker called Workhorse Group.
Lordstown went public in October 2020 through a reverse merger with special purpose acquisition company DiamondPeak Holdings, joining a flock of EV start-ups that went public through such deals in that period.
Like several others, including truck maker Nikola, Lordstown has struggled to live up to the high expectations of early investors. In 2021, its CEO and founder, Stephen Burns, resigned after the carmaker acknowledged it had overstated pre-orders for its electric trucks.
Lordstown’s finance chief at the time also resigned. Burns has since sold his entire stake in Lordstown, according to a June regulatory filing.
As Lordstown wrestled during 2021 and 2022 with investigations by regulators and the US justice department, Ford was launching its electric F-150 Lightning pickup truck, aiming at commercial customers.
EV start-up Rivian launched its luxury electric pickup in 2022. GM and Stellantis have announced plans for electric pickups. Elon Musk’s Tesla has promised it will begin producing its Cybertruck late this year.
Lordstown struggled to ramp up production of its Endurance trucks over the past several months amid the dispute with Foxconn, challenging market conditions and the cost-intensive nature of its business, the company has said.
The few trucks that the company assembled had material costs that were “substantially higher than our selling price”, Lordstown said in a May regulatory filing.
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