In an unexpected turn of events, Lordstown Motors, a promising electric vehicle (EV) maker, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, sending shockwaves throughout the automotive industry. The news comes amid a fraught legal battle between the EV startup and Foxconn, a Taiwanese electronics giant renowned for assembling Apple’s iPhones. Foxconn, a key investor in Lordstown, has been accused of fraudulent behavior and neglecting its commitment to the EV maker.

Lordstown’s CEO, Edward Hightower, stated in a press release that despite their commitment and dedication to the partnership, Foxconn failed to execute the agreed-upon strategy, leaving bankruptcy as their only viable option. In the meantime, Foxconn dismissed the lawsuit as meritless, stating that it had engaged in constructive negotiations to address the company’s financial struggles.

Lordstown’s Financial Woes and Local Impact

Lordstown Motors took its name from its base location in the industrial town of Lordstown, Ohio. The once-thriving factory, bought from General Motors (GM) in 2019, was seen as the lifeblood of the local economy, employing over 1,600 workers at its peak. Fast forward to today, the company’s full-time employee count has dwindled to a mere fraction of that number. The optimism around the debut of the company’s flagship electric pickup truck, the Endurance, had instilled hope for job opportunities in the community. However, the company’s financial woes have only cast a darker shadow over the town’s economic prospects.

These financial struggles began not long after the company’s inception. In 2021, Lordstown warned of a possible business failure due to cash flow problems that hindered its commercial manufacturing operations. This warning proved prophetic as the company’s production output came to a near standstill, with only 56 vehicles built and a meager 18 trucks delivered to customers since commercial production began.

An Uphill Battle for Lordstown

In the fiercely competitive electric vehicle market, Lordstown’s Endurance pickup faced an uphill battle against industry giants like Ford. Ford’s entry into the electric pickup market with the Ford F-150 Lightning, which caters to both fleet and retail customers, has further strained the EV startup’s foothold in the market.

Foxconn’s Footprint in the Auto World

Foxconn, as Lordstown’s largest shareholder, has been eager to expand its influence in the automotive world. It has brokered agreements with other electric carmakers, such as California-based startups Fisker and Indi EV, to manufacture their vehicles. The firm’s acquisition of the EV startup’s factory and subsequent plans for EV manufacturing further underlines its commitment to achieving a significant share of the global EV market.

Lordstown’s Previous Crises and Legal Battles

Lordstown’s bankruptcy filing follows a series of crises the company has faced in recent years. Besides battling allegations from short-sellers and dealing with an inquiry by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) over-inflated vehicle pre-orders, the company now finds itself embroiled in a contentious lawsuit with Foxconn. The lawsuit accuses Foxconn of breaching contract agreements and forcing the company into bankruptcy. The response from Foxconn has been equally resolute, with the firm rejecting the allegations and suspending further negotiations.

Despite the dire situation, Lordstown Motors continues to remain optimistic about the future. The company believes its existing assets and vehicle development platform could serve as a springboard for another automaker looking to enter the EV market at a fraction of the cost and time it would typically take to start from scratch. Whether this optimism will translate into a lifeline for the troubled EV maker remains to be seen.

Originally published on Grit Daily.