For my lurkers, any luck selling your dumps yet?
Foxconn Ohio opened its doors Wednesday to a delegation of Taiwanese investors to demonstrate the company’s current production activity and potential of its 6.2 million-square-foot manufacturing plant.
Indeed, Foxconn, the largest electronics contract manufacturer in the world, has already identified areas where it could expand at its Lordstown campus should the massive plant reach capacity.
Foxconn executives said the plant could add another 1.4 million square feet in the front and rear of the assembly complex, as the tech giant courts customers that would use the facility to build EVs for the North American market.
James Wu, spokesman for Foxconn Group, said the Lordstown plant is critical to pursuing the company’s EV strategy in North America. “This is going to be very important to realize our goal to have a 5% global share in 2025,” he said.
Foxconn, also known as Hon Hai Technology Group, purchased the plant from Lordstown Motors Corp. in May for $230 million. Since then, the company has signed contract manufacturing agreements with Lordstown Motors to produce the all-electric Endurance pickup, and Monarch Tractor to build its Mark V EV tractor.
Also, the company has secured a memorandum of understanding to build pre-production and prototype models for California-based Indiev Inc.’s Indi One electric vehicle. And, in May, Fisker Inc. confirmed it wanted to build its Fisker Pear EV at Lordstown per a framework agreement it signed earlier with Foxconn.
On Tuesday, the German auto news outlet, Automobilwoche, reported that Volkswagen is in discussions with Foxconn to build the Scout EV. Such a deal could bring production to Lordstown, since the plant is specifically designated to produce EVs on a contract basis.
“Starting in 2023, we should see this factory running,” Wu said. “In 2024, we should see quite a significant amount of EV cars made here. We are quite excited.”
Wu said that Foxconn is able to provide customers with contract design and manufacturing services, or CDMS. “In EV sectors, we try to showcase our CDMS business model. We can provide, including the car design, components, modules, assembly – these kinds of total solutions,” he said. “We are in negotiations with several potential customers.”
About 25 representatives from banks, investment groups and the news media based mostly in Taiwan visited the plant on Wednesday. The event was to inform the group of Foxconn’s progress since it entered the EV market in the United States. “We wanted to introduce this factory to our investors and media to make them comfortable and confident in our EV strategy,” Wu said.
The Foxconn plant is currently building the Lordstown Motors Endurance. On Tuesday, the Lordstown Motors announced that it had started commercial deliveries of the vehicle. It also announced the Endurance had received certification from the EPA and the California Air Resources Board, or CARB, and completed all of the necessary crash tests.
The Taiwanese delegation received a firsthand look at how the Endurance is built during a brief plant tour. The visitors were permitted to observe the stamping plant, body shop and general assembly areas.
Ian Upton, Foxconn Ohio’s director of production control, said the stamping plant contains five press lines, four of which have the capability to produce between 400 and 450 stamped components per hour. “Depending on the parts we’re making, we can stamp a right-hand and a left-hand door at the same time,” which means 800 and 900 parts per hour.
The fifth press is a transfer line, Upton said, that runs at a higher speed but stamps smaller parts. The entire stamping operation – which takes up 800,000 square-feet – produces most of the metal parts visible on the Endurance pickup.
Production of the Endurance is in its infancy, though, and Lordstown Motors has said that it plans to manufacture an initial batch of just 500 units, most of which would be produced during the first quarter of 2023.
“We have an awful lot of room for growth in terms of volume in the future,” Upton said.
Foxconn Ohio’s body shop occupies approximately 1.2 million square feet of space in the plant, Upton said. “It takes all the parts we make in stamping, as well as some purchased components, and then we start welding the vehicle together,” creating the steel frame of the truck.
The framing area, for example, attaches the two metal body sides to the floor pan. “This station is exceptionally important,” he said. “If things are not square, if things are not dimensioned properly, the doors will not fit properly, the doors will not close properly,” Upton explained. “The entire interior of the vehicle will not be able to be assembled properly.”
Both the stamping and body shop operations are highly automated, Upton said. “In the stamping plant, the only time human hands, with proper protection, touches a part is at the end of the line putting it into a storage rack.”
All of the welding in the body shop is also automated and performed by robotic welders, he added. This improves quality control, repeatability, and is easier on operators. The paint shop is also fully automated.
Upton said it’s possible to run various models through the body shop, since the robots could be programmed to pick tooling that is specific to the vehicle in production.
Securing this tooling and other components, however, often depends on Foxconn’s contract client and where they stand in their development schedule, Upton said. Lordstown Motors, for example, faced serious headwinds because of supply chain issues.
“We will not source the components for Lordstown Motors,” he said.
However, as new platforms are introduced in the future – such as Foxconn’s Mobility In Harmony, or MIH, platform – Foxconn would then be considered as a supplier. The company could also serve as a Tier One supplier to clients. “We are building a common MIH platform. That is a huge amount of leverage,” Upton said.
Once the body and trim work is finished, and the pickup moves through the paint shop, the frame is fitted and married to the chassis in the general assembly area. The chassis – which contains the vehicle’s understructure including the battery and hub motors – are assembled in another part of the plant and carried by automatic guided vehicles, or AGVs.
Using AGVs makes sense for now, since the Endurance is being produced in low volumes, Upton added. “When we get a high-volume customer in here, we’ll be putting in an entirely new chassis line.”
Jerry Hsiao, Foxconn chief production officer, said that the Lordstown plant and the region are steeped in manufacturing talent and today employs approximately 400. The majority of the plant’s leadership is made up of former employees of General Motors Co., which owned the Lordstown plant for more than 50 years before ending production and selling it to Lordstown Motors Corp.
“The most important thing to me is people,” Hsiao told guests. “Here, they know how to build a car.”