President Donald Trump tweeted today that Loveland-based electric truck manufacturer Workhorse Group is in talks to buy the General Motors' plant in Lordstown, Ohio.
GM closed the plant in March and laid off 4,500 workers there as it ceased production of the Chevrolet Cruz. Workhorse, Trump said, could bring those jobs back.
But the picture is more complicated. The actual transaction GM is discussing isn't just with Workhorse itself, but an as-yet undisclosed startup company led by Workhorse co-founder Steve Burns as the majority owner.
Trump's fellow Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine struck a more cautious tone during remarks today about the president's statements.
Workhorse has just 98 full-time employees at present, though last July it won a contract to produce 950 electric trucks for the United States Post Office.
DeWine noted that "this is probably not the day to celebrate," saying that the deal would likely be finalized in the fall.
A couple key pieces will need to fall into place before then.
Workhorse has also partnered with a Singapore-based company to compete for a $3.6 billion contract replacing more USPS vehicles. Winning that contract will be "key" to a resurrection in Lordstown, DeWine said.
"If things are not in place for this to happen, this would be very cruel to the workers and the people in Lordstown and the Mahoning Valley,” he said today.
But there is a big wrinkle in that assumption: Burns told the Wall Street Journal that the company is planning on employing hundreds — not thousands — in Lordstown building an electric pickup truck for commercial use. The postal vehicles would likely be built elsewhere.
There are other stumbling blocks for the deal.
Trump said that the company's purchase is subject to agreement by the United Autoworkers Union. The union, however, has indicated it opposes the deal.
"In response to General Motors' announcement today, the UAW's position is unequivocal: General Motors should assign a product to the Lordstown facility and continue operating it," UAW Vice President Terry Dittes said in a statement today. "A federal lawsuit filed by the UAW over the closing of the Lordstown, Baltimore and Warren facilities is still pending, and the UAW will continue its effort to protect the contractual rights of its members at these locations."
Trump also tweeted that GM will be spending $700,000,000 at three locations in Ohio, "creating another 450 jobs."
The president said he received the information from GM CEO Mary Barra, who called DeWine later in the day to confirm the companies had reached a tentative agreement over the plant.
Workhorse posted a $6.4 million net loss in the first quarter of 2019 — though Lt. Gov. Jon Husted noted today that other electrical vehicle companies like Tesla have also posted big losses as they ramp up new technology.
According to MarketWatch, Trump's tweet caused Workhorse's shares to immediately surge 32 percent.