Canoo to build its first electric vehicle factory in Oklahoma

Canoo, the electric vehicle startup that recently became a publicly traded company through a merger with a SPAC, plans to build a factory in Oklahoma that will employ up to 2,000 workers, newly appointed CEO Tony Aquila said Thursday during the company’s investor day presentation.

The factory will be located on a 400-acre site in the MidAmerica Industrial Park in Pryor, Oklahoma about 45 minutes from Tulsa. The facility, which the company describes as a “mega microfactory” will include a paint shop, body shop and general assembly plant and is expected to open in 2023. The site is near a number of manufacturing and logistics businesses, Aquila noted.

“It’s a hub that we think is going to grow like crazy,” Aquila said at the event. “In addition to that, it puts you dead center for logistics and movement across North America, so you can get anywhere, same day and back is pretty important.”

Canoo, which has said it will deliver its first EV in the fourth quarter of 2022, also announced it is partnering with Netherlands-based contract manufacturer VDL Nedcar to handle initial production while the factory is being built.

Canoo’s announcement comes nearly a year after Oklahoma lost its bid to convince Tesla to build its next factory in the state. Tesla ultimately picked a site near Austin for the factory, which it has said will produce the Cybertruck, the Tesla Semi and the Model Y and Model 3 for sales to customers on the East Coast.

“We’re super pumped — we think we are the flavor of the month and we are the right place for manufacturing,” Gov. Kevin Stitt said, noting that the state has the lowest electricity costs in the entire country. Those lower rates have helped attract companies like Google, which operates a data center in Pryor.

Canoo’s investor day featured a variety of engineers, designers and executives, all of whom focused on certain aspects of the company’s vision. Canoo is focused on products for consumers and commercial customers. All of Canoo’s EVs will share the same skateboard and use different cabins or “top hats” that can be paired to create unique vehicles. The company has unveiled several vehicles, including an electric microbus, a pickup and one designed for business-to-business applications. The company has scaled up its workforce to about 435 people as of the end of the first quarter of 2021, and plans to expand to 690 people by the end of the year, according to CTO Pete Savagian.

It was also the first major public event with Aquila steering the company that has had a bumpy ride in the past year.

Canoo started as Evelozcity in 2017, founded by former Faraday Future executives Stefan Krause and Ulrich Kranz. The company rebranded as Canoo in spring 2019 and debuted its first vehicle several months later. The unique-looking vehicle and Canoo’s initial plan to offer it only as a subscription helped the company gain the attention of investors and the media. Canoo even landed a partnership with Hyundai to co-develop EVs, but that deal fell apart earlier this year after the company changed its business model and decided to not offer engineering services to other automakers, according to comments made in March by Aquila.

Canoo also lost its co-founders, first Krause, and more recently Kranz. And in May, the company disclosed that it is being investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The investigation is broad and covers the special purpose acquisition company Hennessy Capital Acquisition Corp.’s initial public offering and merger with Canoo, the company’s operations, business model, revenues, revenue strategy, customer agreements, earnings and other related topics, along with the recent departures of certain of the company’s officers, according to a quarterly earnings report posted May 17.