Categories Industrials, Interviews

Our experience and legacy of excellence give us a large leg up: John LaGourgue of Vicinity Motor

In an interview with AphaStreet, John LaGourgue, vice president of sales and corporate development at Vicinity Motor, speaks about the company’s foray into the EV market and future plans

Vicinity Motor Corp. (NASDAQ: VEV) is an electric vehicle maker catering mainly to the mid-sized bus market in the U.S. and Canada. The company’s business strategy is focused on leveraging the rapid EV adoption globally and the ongoing net-zero shift. Headquartered in British Columbia, Canada, Vicinity manufactures vehicles designed for both commercial and private use.

The company collaborates with partner organizations to make vehicles and supply them in target markets, including its flagship electric, CNG, and clean-diesel buses. In an interaction with AphaStreet, Vicinity’s VP of sales and corporate development John LaGourgue spoke about the company’s operations and growth strategy.

Please tell us about your recent entry into the EV market, and the Company’s journey thus far.

Vicinity Motor Corp. (“VMC”) was founded in 2008 by our CEO William Trainer to improve, build, and provide midsize buses – what we view as an underserved segment –  for transit and shuttle bus markets across North America. We successfully built and sold over 800 internal combustion engine (ICE) buses and vehicles across the U.S and Canadian markets for over a decade before seeing an emerging trend towards electrification – which for us began with our Vicinity Lightning electric bus, later expanding to include the VMC 1200 Class 3 electric truck and our tie-up to sell EV shuttle buses with Optimal EV.

We recently disclosed that our backlog for 2022 deliveries grew to over US$90 million, the majority of which is for our all-electric vehicles, reflecting how quick the transition truly was for us, driven by the demands of our customers.

What gives Vicinity an edge in the current market where almost every legacy automaker is investing in EVs?

We feel our experience and legacy of excellence within the public transportation and commercial vehicle space gives us a large leg up over those looking to enter the market. We’ve sold over 800 units of our legacy vehicles, fostering deep industry relationships along the way, while much of the competition in the EV space is from early-stage startups with no track record of production and, effectively, just an idea. We have an existing infrastructure with sales, service, parts supply, technical support, and warranty that is in place for our growth. The major automakers don’t make buses, and the ICE bus manufacturers have been slow to embrace EVs as well, creating an exciting niche for us.

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Vicinity Motor Q1 2022 earnings infographic

How do you see the electric vehicle market evolving, and what is your long-term growth strategy to stay competitive?

It’s of course very tricky to predict the future of emerging industries – as so many vehicle classes are being electrified – but to provide some thoughts, it’s common knowledge that policy pressure towards ‘Net Zero’ is rising worldwide. Passenger EV ownership is accelerating but commercial EV adoption is only in its infancy, leaving massive opportunities for innovation and exciting new products in the commercial EV space.

The key to our long-term success will be the ability to leverage existing product development and sales relationships to drive the adoption of our electrified fleets. Pre-orders for our Vicinity Lightning electric bus and Vicinity 1200 Class 3 electric truck are strong, which gives us a high degree of confidence in both our EV transition and market readiness for EVs in general.

Can you share details of your partnerships, especially the one with Optimal Electric Vehicles?

Our partnership with Optimal EV is particularly exciting, as they manufacture top-of-the-line, low-floor electric shuttle buses with several innovative features that make them an unbeatable workhorse at an attractive price point. Through a transaction we undertook with Optimal, we have exclusive North American distribution rights for their S1 and E1 product lines for 10 years. Given they maintain their own manufacturing facility in Elkhart, Indiana, it allows us to grow our EV product line without CapEx and the complexity associated with manufacturing a new EV.

How soon do you expect to achieve sustainable profitability, and what are the plans to reach there?

We view the completion of our new Ferndale, WA facility as a critical upcoming milestone for the company. This facility is expected to be capable of annual production of up to 1,000 “Buy America” compliant electric, CNG, and clean diesel units across all sizes and powertrains.

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Increasing our U.S. manufacturing capacity allows for faster vehicle delivery, no tariffs on vehicles sold in the U.S., and reduced costs associated with shipping. The road to profitability is defined by our ability to source and fulfill new orders, so we’re pleased with the progress being made at Ferndale which will enable us to scale in a way that was previously unheard of. I believe we are very well positioned to execute upon our backlog and create sustainable, long-term value for our shareholders.

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