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So That Happened: Lordstown Motors Fighting to Stay Alive... Again, Cutting Carbon at Danfoss, Lots of Hate for Oat Milk

May 3, 2023
IndustryWeek editors look into those stories and the legislative agenda for the Association of Equipment Manufacturers and how the heck to incorporate ChatGPT into cars.

Editor’s note: Welcome to So That Happened, our editors’ takes on things going on in the manufacturing world that deserve some extra attention. This will appear regularly in the Member’s Only section of the site.

Advocates Call for Legislative Action to Strengthen Domestic Production

The Association of Equipment Manufacturers’ (AEM) grassroots campaign I Make America gathered tens of thousands of supporters to urge lawmakers to focus on emerging priorities in the industry.

In 88,000 letters to Congress, the manufacturing workers and supporters called on Captiol Hill to address issues, including:

  • Modernizing the critical infrastructure permitting process
  • Reinforcing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act by ensuring quick funding from Washington to critical project sites
  • A bipartisan farm bill for farmer and rancher confidence and predictability

“Fueled by a legacy of grit and ingenuity, equipment manufacturers can outcompete anyone. But lawmakers must act to ensure that the 2.3 million men and women of our industry can out-innovate and outcompete the rest of the world,” said Kip Eideberg, AEM senior vice president of government and industry relations.

Anna Smith

Lordstown Begins its Next Big Battle—and It’s with Its Partner

Foxconn wants out of the foxhole.

The Taiwanese contract manufacturing giant more formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. last year came to the rescue of Lordstown Motors Corp., buying its Northeast Ohio factory and taking on hundreds of workers as well as the production of its Endurance electric pickup truck. Among other things, the companies’ agreement also called for Foxconn to invest tens of millions more in cash-hungry Lordstown as the latter seeks to further develop its product.

Last month, Foxconn told Lordstown’s leaders they have breached that investment agreement by virtue of Lordstown shares falling below the $1 minimum price that keeps it in good standing with the Nasdaq. Unless that changes in the next few weeks, Foxconn executives said they will end the companies’ partnership. That could be fatal for Lordstown, execs said in a regulatory filing:

“If we are unable to resolve our dispute with Foxconn in a timely manner on terms that allow us to continue operating as planned, identify other sources of funding, identify a strategic partner and resolve our significant contingent liabilities, we may need to curtail or cease operations and seek protection by filing a voluntary petition for relief under the Bankruptcy Code,” the filing reads.

For what it’s worth, Lordstown’s leaders have told their peers at Foxconn that they have no standing to break off the companies’ partnership and that Foxconn is in fact the party that has breached the investment agreement by not timely ironing out details of an EV development program. But when the clock is ticking, being proven right in court (if that’s where this dispute ends up) may end up being purely pyrrhic.

Geert De Lombaerde

I Know You Are, But What Am I?

As any fan of Saul Goodman or Cyrano de Bergerac will tell you, it’s nearly impossible to hurt someone with harsh words if they beat you to the punch. In the play, Cyrano’s response to being told he had a very large nose is a 52-line monolog listing better insults, including, “You love the little birds, I think?/I see you've managed with a fond research/To find their tiny claws a roomy perch!”

Oh right, we’re supposed to be talking about manufacturing. Oat milk manufacturer Oatly knows it has critics that like to complain about how it treats some of its farmer suppliers, how vegetarian the company really is, who its investors are and why it shows up in weird places on TikTok. Rather than letting critics wander around the Internet and stumble into those mistakes and scandals, the company collects the criticism on the creatively titled Fckoatly.com website, in most cases without any corporate defense or comment.

For example, Fckoatly posted a massive Twitter exchange from climate activists, incensed that the plant milk company accepted a massive investment from private equity company Blackstone. Rather than linking to detailed explanations on why Oatly leaders thought the investment would be good for the environment, the response site simply posted the real-time exchange with critics. Sure, there were a few defensive Tweets, but not the thorough, bullet-pointed response you’d typically expect from a company defending itself.

Taking the idea from the interesting to the absurd, the Fckoatly site also gives uses the ability to share hate for that page with the Fckfckoatly.com webpage, which in turn has its own Fckfckfckoatly page. By the time you get to Fckfckfckfckfckoatly, sharing your further dislike requires calling a Swedish telephone number (the company is headquartered in Malmo).

Robert Schoenberger

Danfoss to Reduce North American Carbon Footprint by 75%

Danfoss North America has signed a power purchase agreement with project funding firm CIG Capital to purchase around 75 MW of solar power to power all 24 factories and 36 North American locations by 2025.

“As part of our ESG goals, Danfoss has committed to achieving carbon neutrality across our global operations by 2030. This agreement to secure green energy for our North America operations will reduce our global emissions by 21%,” says Soren Revsbech Dam, head of ESG and Decarbonization, Global Services Real Estate at Danfoss. The initial agreement of 12 years will facilitate green energy through at least 2037.

With groundbreaking planned for November of this year, CIG Capital will build a six square mile solar farm in Texas with a projected capacity of 509 MW.

“Danfoss is committed to playing a leading role in the energy transition. Meeting our ESG goals and living up to our commitment to combat climate change means developing innovative solutions,” says Rick Sporrer, president of Danfoss North America.

Having already achieved carbon neutrality at their headquarters campus site in Denmark, Danfoss sets the standard for taking tangible steps to achieve sustainability goals.

Anna Smith

ChatGPT in Your Car?

Artificial Intelligence is all over nowadays: pictures, videos, web searches, even art. Now, it could soon even be in your car. General Motors Co and Faraday Futures Intelligent Electric have recently announced plans to integrate AI into future vehicles. GM, which is already collaborating with Microsoft Corp to commercialize driverless vehicles, plans to use the chatbot for various tasks, such as accessing information normally found in an owner’s manual, opening a garage door with a code, and even integrating schedules from a calendar, according to GM Vice President Scott Miller.

Meanwhile Faraday Futures, an EV startup, could be biting off more than it can chew…or reinventing the wheel. Its Generative AI Product Stack will allow users to do simple tasks–search and entertainment (Google Maps and Spotify, anyone?) to more complex tasks that may not be appropriate while the user should be concentrating on the road, like stock analysis.  Regardless, considering the company just completed its first commercial production build in mid-April, maybe they ought to slow down on the innovation for a bit.

Jennifer Ramsay

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