LORDSTOWN, Ohio — The sign outside the new Lordstown Motors Corporation, like the Chevy Cruze sign that adorned it during the final chapter of the plant’s GM days, is big and bold. It makes a statement that the plant is under new ownership and ready to take off in a new direction, a journey that began Thursday with the rollout of the new Lordstown Endurance, the first of its kind in the U.S. all-electric pickup truck.
Vice President Mike Pence riding shotgun as the truck rolled across the floor of the plant up on to the stage for Thursday’s reveal. Only about 20 of the trucks are being produced this year for testing purposes with production to begin in earnest mid to late 2021. Pence announcing to the crowd that Lordstown has secured 14,000 advance purchases of the Endurance, sight unseen.
Lordstown Motors CEO Steve Burns said that’s just the start pointing to the fact that around 400,000 Chevy Cruze vehicles were being produced a year here. “We think we can put out about 600,000 of our vehicles because they’re much simpler to assemble,” he said.
In taking the stage the vice president declared “today is a new day for Lordstown,” a new beginning though that comes 15 months after a bitter ending, the closing of the GM plant that once occupied this space and the loss of thousands of jobs.
In 2016, the Trump/Pence team became the first non-incumbent Republicans to carry Trumbull County since Herbert Hoover. They did it on the strength of the message surrounding jobs and manufacturing. A year after his election the president returned to the Mahoning Valley and famously urged people at a rally not to sell their houses because manufacturing was coming back.
Two years later and that’s what many of the GM employees from Lordstown would have to do after the automaker announced the plant was closing. Around 2,500 employees took transfers to other plants in other states said Ben Strickland, former shop chairman for UAW Local 1112. News 5 asked Pence if any of those workers should feel let down by the administration.
“I think that what hardworking Americans saw under President Donald Trump was not only an economy that was expanding but wages that were rising across the country,” Pence said. “And while we had heartbreaking news about GM closing this plant today’s announcement represents a new beginning and as the president announced a year ago when we got word that Lordstown Motors was going to come to this plant we also got word the GM was going to be investing hundreds of millions of dollars in three other plants right here in the Buckeye State expanding their footprint, expanding employment.”
The new Lordstown Motors is seeing a favorable response the Endurance but they are still in the running for $6.3 billion contract with the U.S. Postal Service for a new fleet of electric vehicles. The vice president said he wishes them the best but the awarding of the contract is out of their hands.
“Well, we’re going to give every consideration to opportunities to see jobs grow here in this area. The president’s made that perfectly clear there’s obviously appropriate process to go through and we’ll adhere to all of those,” he said.