In a further sign of its changing business strategy as an electric vehicle startup, Bollinger Motors announced Monday Roush Industries will be assembling its battery-electric Class 3 through 6 platforms and chassis cab commercial vehicles. Bollinger said it would provide the parts for assembly at Roush’s facility in Livonia, Michigan. Bollinger is headquartered near Roush in Oak Park, Michigan.
“Roush has significant engineering and assembly history, and we’re excited to work with them,” said Robert Bollinger, founder and CEO of Bollinger Motors, striking an upbeat note, a sentiment reinforced by Bryan Chambers, chief operating officer of Bollinger Motors.
“Roush will help us to hit our quality and production targets confidently. Roush’s knowledge base and track record in working with both startups and established OEMs was a big part of our decision.”
Before production begins, Bollinger Motors will work with Roush on assembling pre-production units and performing validation testing. Roush has provided engineering, testing, prototyping and contract manufacturing for nearly 50 years. Its talents go beyond the automotive industry. In March, Roush opened a second facility in Orlando, Florida to support fabrication, assembly, and testing for the area’s theme parks.
“Our proven processes are engineered to bring products to market quickly and efficiently, while meeting OEM-level quality standards,” said Brad Rzetelny, vice president of Roush Flexible Assembly. “With fully scalable manufacturing, we can grow with Bollinger Motors to meet the growing need from its fleet customers as they convert to electric vehicles.”
A trend among startups
But Bollinger’s plan to have another company assemble its vehicles isn’t unusual among startups, as they look to avoid the fiasco — called “production hell” by Elon Musk — experienced by Tesla as it ramped up car production.
Consider Fisker, which is contracting out production of its first model, the Fisker Ocean, to Magna Steyr at its plant in Graz, Austria. Magna Steyr specializes in contract manufacturing for automakers, with the BMW 5 Series and Z4, Porsche Boxster and Cayman, Mercedes-Benz G-Class, Jaguar I-Pace and E-Pace and Toyota Supra among the 30 nameplates that have rolled off its assembly lines. And rumors persist that the company will be manufacturing the long-rumored Apple Car.
And in October 2021, China’s Foxconn, manufacturer of Apple iPhones, announced it purchased most of Lordstown Motors Ohio plant for $230 million. The company also bought $50 million worth of stock in the troubled battery-electric pickup maker. As part of the deal, Foxconn agreed to take over manufacturing Lordstown’s Endurance pickup and get first chance to produce future vehicles for Lordstown.
Adjusting to a forthcoming reality
The move comes after Bollinger Motors announced in January it is indefinitely postponing development of its $125,000 consumer-oriented battery-electric B1 SUV and B2 pickup, shifting its focus to medium- and heavy-duty all-electric commercial trucks, including a specialized variant of its all-electric B2 called the B2 Chassis Cab, or B2CC.
The market for all-electric commercial trucks is expected to grow exponentially this decade, according to numerous industry forecasts. One recent report stated that U.S. electric truck market revenue is expected to reach more than $15 million annually by 2030, growing at a 54% compound annual growth rate.
In April, Con Edison has asked Bollinger Motors to develop a Class 3 prototype of a walk-in van for testing. Con Edison is tentatively planning to integrate Class 3 – 6 vehicles into its fleet by 2024. Bollinger’s rear-wheel-drive platform can be adapted to a variety of wheelbases and battery sizes for uses as heavy-duty tow trucks, cement mixers or long-haul vehicles.
While demand is expanding rapidly for Class 2 vehicles, thanks to increases demand by Amazon, UPS and FedEx, Bollinger intends to concentrate on Class 3-6 commercial vehicles.
But the neophyte vehicle assembler faces stiff competition in this segment from Nikola, which uses on hydrogen fuel cells, as well as more established OEMs such as Daimler, Ford, Ram, Mack, Peterbilt, Isuzu, Navistar, International and Kenworth — all of whom are in the process of offering battery-electric trucks.
For any nascent automaker to conquest such established makes takes much, and it remains to be seen how Bollinger will fare.