Ohio-based startup Lordstown Motors is firing back at Hindenburg Research, the short-seller group claiming the EV truckmaker either faked or overstated claims that it has advance orders for 100,000 of the electric pickups it plans to launch later this year.
Hindenburg is the same investment research firm that last year revealed extensive problems in the claims made by another nascent green truck company, Nikola Motors. Its latest report claims Lordstown may have made some similar distortions as it went public through a SPAC merger, among other things grossly overstating advance order numbers.
“Lordstown is an electric vehicle SPAC with no revenue and no sellable product, which we believe has misled investors on both its demand and production capabilities,” Hindenburg said, while referring to Lordstown founder and CEO Steve Burns as a “con man.”
Lordstown claims Endurance truck on track
For its part, Lordstown responded on Monday with a release defending its product plans and promising to directly address “important business developments” during its inaugural earnings call.
While the statement didn’t directly address the various charges leveled by Hindenburg, Lordstown said it “remains on track for start of production of its Lordstown Endurance all-electric pickup truck in September 2021.”
The statement also noted that, “The company is aware of the remarks made in the report and intends to respond as appropriate in due time.”
Lordstown Motors was launched in 2018 by Burns, an early pioneer in vehicle electrification. It took a big leap with the acquisition of the former General Motors plant in Lordstown, Ohio, which is being retooled to build the Endurance pickup.
In January, the company said it received more than 100,000 non-binding production reservations from various commercial fleets. That appeared to be a significant base of business for a startup in a market just adopting electric propulsion.
But Hindenburg’s new report questions many of the orders listed by Lordstown. Among the largest is a deal for 14,000 of the trucks worth $735 million supposedly placed by E Squared Energy. But Hindenburg claims the firm is a two-man operation, based out of a “small apartment in Texas,” which has no vehicle fleet.
“Another 1,000-truck, $52.5 million order comes from a 2-person startup that operates out of a Regus virtual office with a mailing address at a UPS Store,” reported Hindebnburg. “We spoke with the owner who acknowledged it won’t actually order any vehicles, instead describing the ‘pre-order’ as a mere marketing relationship.”
Hindenburg also took down Nikola
While Hindenburg’s report raised numerous questions about the status of the Endurance program and the sales numbers Lordstown claims, it took direct aim at CEO Burns. The report cites unnamed current and former Lordstown employees who, among other things, dubbed Burns a “con man,” and likened him to P.T. Barnum, the legendary circus owner and scam artist.
The tenor of the Hindenburg report echoes a study it put out last year on Nikola Corp., which also used a SPAC deal to go public, initially generating a big run up in its share price while also lining up a proposed alliance with General Motors.
The GM deal was sharply pared back after the report was released, Nikola’s stock taking a major tumble. Other revelations followed about Chairman Trevor Milton’s allegedly inappropriate behaviors, leading to his resignation. In February, the company released the results of an internal study indicating a number of statements made by Nikola and Milton were partially or completely inaccurate.
Lordstown stock tumbles
After going public last year, Lordstown Motors’ shares surged to a high of $31.80 before settling back a bit below $20. The stock plunged last Friday after the Hindenburg report was released, before rebounding slightly. It stood at $15.14 a share at noon Monday.
Analysts have been mixed in their opinion of Lordstown’s chances of making a business case with Endurance – and an initial $75 million from GM when it transferred ownership of the Ohio plant.
The truck takes the unusual approach of using four motors, one mounted in each wheel hub. It is expected to produce 600 horsepower, deliver 250 miles of range and tow up to 6,000 pounds.
Demand for all-electric commercial vehicles has been growing rapidly, with companies as diverse as UPS, Amazon and Wal-Mart placing orders – though most frequently for battery-powered delivery trucks. Complicating matters, as many as a dozen different companies are planning to launch electric pickups. These include established automakers like General Motors and Ford, as well as numerous new companies like Rivian, Bollinger and Atlas, as well as Lordstown Motors.