2023 Lordstown Endurance Review: The first, last and only drive?


ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Like many startups, Lordstown Motors crashed and burned, filing for bankruptcy in a move industry observers have been predicting since last fall. 

The flameout took on the air of a soap opera, as Lordstown is suing its one-time investor, Foxconn, which is best known as an iPhone maker. Liquidation is next. There’s also an SEC investigation as to whether the company misled investors.

As a refresher: Lordstown Motors was founded in 2018 and took over an old General Motors factory in Lordstown, Ohio, with ambitious plans to build an electric truck for fleet uses. Former President Trump applauded the plan for creating jobs, and then-Vice President Mike Pence even visited the factory. Cincinnati Bengals all-world quarterback Joe Burrow was a spokesman. There were many, many questions, but a lot of people wanted to buy into the feel-good story of an upstart EV maker taking root in the Rust Belt. The company seemed to have as good of a chance as any of the new EV makers to make a go of it.

Perhaps someone will want Lordstown’s assets, and the Endurance work truck is the most valuable. I’m one of the few people who has driven the Endurance, and perhaps ever will. It’s decent. It’s OK. There’s something to work with there.

It’s not as good as the Ford F-150 Lightning Pro, which I drove immediately after the Endurance at a group test — but that’s a tough comp. Toyota and Nissan have tried and failed for decades to beat Ford (and GM and Ram) at trucks. It wasn’t realistic for Lordstown, and to be fair, the company wasn’t trying to do that. Lordstown just wanted to be in the conversation. And for a minute it was.

The Endurance that I tested for about 50 minutes on a gray autumn morning felt respectable. It’s very basic, and the company was targeting a starting price of $63,500, before any tax credits. I didn’t find major fault with the truck. The price seemed high, which illustrates how hard it is to enter a segment. Ford simply needs to make an electric truck and can charge what it feels is appropriate. Lordstown needed to charge a certain price to stay in business. They didn’t.

I drove the Endurance on rural roads west of Ann Arbor, Mich. The ride quality is fine. It feels like a traditional truck. It is a little stiff and reminded me of things like the Nissan Frontier or Jeep Gladiator, midsize trucks that are a little firmer than the sometimes cushier full-size segment. It also has the vibe of a midsize truck from 10 years ago — just a basic truck with a purpose.

The Endurance has four wheel-mounted motors, introducing significant unsprung mass. This could make the truck feel harsher, especially over bumpy roads, but I didn’t detect much of that. Given that it has a solid rear axle, the Endurance handled as I expected. The electric-powered rack-and-pinion steering is a little light on-center, but there was feedback and I took note of the fact I was pivoting 20-inch wheels.

While the four-wheel hub motors raised some questions, they also offer potential benefits. It’s a four-wheel-drive system, obviously. There’s plenty of traction, which I noted when I pulled through a gravely dirt parking lot and purposely aimed the 20-inch wheels at potholes.

Rather than pondering a chassis physics lesson, I was much more aware of the Endurance’s electric driving demeanor. I noticed the regenerative braking, which can be tailored to light or normal settings. The truck also has a sport mode, which quickens things. Lordstown said the Endurance will hit 60 mph in 6.3 seconds, which is more than quick enough for fleet uses.

The 109-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion batteries offer a range of 200 miles and can be charged from 20% to 80% in less than 45 minutes using 150-kilowatt direct current fast charging. With a Level 2 hookup, it takes about 6½ hours to recharge to this level.

In short: It’s a simple truck. Interesting design. Below-average interior. Not much of an infotainment system. Respectable range. Lordstown made it reality, briefly.

At this point, I’m curious if another automaker, supplier, tech company or investor will pump the needed hundreds of millions of dollars into the project. There’s something there with the Endurance. It’s already done. It just needs a company with some business sense to take over. 

As Lordstown noted in its own bankruptcy announcement: “The Endurance is a fully homologated and certified, production-launched vehicle that can serve as a springboard for the right OEM or other strategic purchaser into the broader North American EV full-size truck market at a fraction of the cost and time it would take to develop a program from the ground-up. The company is confident that a buyer could utilize the Endurance platform to create multiple EV variants and take the product to the next level.”

The Endurance is not a home-run product that simply needs cash — there needs to be a business plan. But it’s not nothing. Say what you want, but Lordstown got its vehicle on the market before Tesla, Chevy and Ram did their trucks.

Others have taken a harsher tone with the Endurance, and I don’t disagree it’s a step behind the existing automakers. And the fact that it produced a few trucks is more of a footnote than bragging rights. My point, however, is that the Endurance is a starting point. Right now it’s essentially a free agent in need of a new team that can develop it into something more. 

Business leaders: You have money. You have designs on doing something big. Maybe you have the expertise? Do you want to take this on? There’s a lot of rich people who spend billions on professional sports teams. The price tag and initial capital would be roughly the same for a single-model automaker. Maybe owning an electric truck maker is more interesting than the Washington Commanders or Manchester United? While I’ve long argued the field of startup EV makers is ripe for consolidation (I stopped by Yahoo Finance Live to chat about the scenarios), it’s hard to imagine another automaker of any size would want to wade into this messy situation.

Startup automakers face many challenges, with money chief among them. Lordstown is certainly a cautionary tale. But I wouldn’t read a ton into it. Many of Lordstown’s problems were, quite simply, Lordstown’s problems. With better partners, investors and luck, things might have turned out differently.

The Endurance is not half-baked. More like 75% baked. The move would be to buy the intellectual property and take it from there. It doesn’t seem like Foxconn was super helpful, and you may or may not need a factory in Lordstown, Ohio.

The bill? Probably half a billion now and a commitment to half a billion dollars over the next two to three years. It’s a tall order. It probably won’t happen. I tell you what — the Endurance isn’t bad. There’s something there. Maybe someone will figure out how to make it something more.



Leave a comment