AMP Buys Workhorse, And Will Electrify Its Trucks

By · March 08, 2013

The Workhorse W42 truck.

The Workhorse W42 truck.

AMP Holdings Inc. survived the carnage of 2012, when many electric vehicle industry companies went under. Now the Loveland, Ohio-based company, which converts regular drivetrain vehicles into pure electric vehicles, has gotten a new lease on life with its recent purchase of step van manufacturer Workhorse. With the purchase, AMP is ending its focus on strictly electric vehicles.

“We want to transform Workhorse into the leading alternative power truck company. If you want an alternatively-powered work truck, that is what we want to be known for,” AMP CEO Stephen Burns told PluginCars.

A few days ago, AMP agreed to pay $5 million to Navistar for the assets of truck maker Workhorse. Those include a factory, engineers, and the intellectual property for the company’s truck chassis. Though Workhorse previously produced a range of vehicles on the chassis, AMP is initially going to focus on step vans, the types of delivery vehicles used by companies such as UPS, Fedex, and Frito Lay.

AMP will continue to produce gas versions of the vans and “lever in electric as people want it,” said Burns. AMP just obtained California Air Resources Board approval for its electric van and the vehicle is undergoing final durability testing, he added. Workhorse will also produce CNG or propane gas versions of the van if there is demand, said Burns.

The Workhorse plant is idle right now, and won’t be restarted until AMP gets orders, said Burns. “We aren’t even turning the factory on until we have enough orders, gas or electric,” he said.

A Horse of a Different Color

AMP’s previous business model centered on converting gas-powered Jeep Grand Cherokee and Mercedes ML350 SUVs into electric vehicles for fleet operators. That business will be phased out after AMP fulfills some existing contracts, said Burns. It will continue to do conversions on trucks, however. “That is a very, very lucrative business,” said Burns.

Even though AMP is expanding beyond pure electric vehicles, it remains committed to green vehicles. To reflect that commitment, AMP will tweak the existing Workhorse logo, which is a black horse. The horse will become green and the tag line will be “Workhorse: A horse of a different color,” said Burns. Workhorse’s 440 dealers will receive additional training in selling alternative fuel vehicles, said Burns. But AMP doesn’t see the need to train all 440 at once since it will focus on California, New York State, and the city of Chicago as initial markets for its electric step vans, he said. All have announced alternative fuel vehicle initiatives.

Producing an entire vehicle is a much bigger task than just converting existing vehicles, Burns admits. But he feels confident. Workhorse is an established brand with proven, mature chassis technology, said Burns. The new part is the electric drivetrain, and AMP “has a handle on that,” he said.

There are other challenges, of course. AMP will grow its workforce from 20 to 300, for example. Some of those employees will be working on a new vehicle that Workhorse was already developing. It is thinner, taller, and lighter than the current vans – “a little like a (Mercedes-Benz) Sprinter van,” said Burns. Launch is planned for 2014.

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