Nascent electric truck maker Bollinger Motors said its battery-electric B1 SUV and B2 pickup will start at $125,000.
Bollinger, which has yet to build a retail model, has spent the past four years developing the modular aluminum trucks. Production of the two vehicles is slated to begin in 2020. Retail deliveries will start in 2021, founder Robert Bollinger said.
The four-door, four-seat trucks, which share most components, are all-wheel drive work and sport vehicles. They feature up to 20 inches of ground clearance and 200 miles of range. They will have a 2.5-ton payload capacity, according to the company’s specifications.
BORN OF DISAPPOINTMENT
The company, which calls itself a low-volume producer, intends to provide sales and service through independent dealers.
Bollinger told Trucks.com that he decided to design his pickup and SUV models after experiencing disappointment with several trucks he’d purchased for a cattle ranching operation he ran in the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York.
The former advertising executive and organic hair products company co-owner moved his automotive enterprise to the Detroit area from New York last year to be closer to financial sources and skilled production facilities and personnel. So far, Bollinger, an industrial designer, seems to be mostly self-financing the company.
Pickups and big SUVs are among the most profitable segment of the U.S. auto market. They account for about 12 percent of light vehicle sales.
Tough electric trucks are just starting to come on line.
“We believe the next and potentially imminent major product frontier for EVs will be the highly lucrative and U.S.-dominated pickup truck market.” Adam Jonas, an analyst with Morgan Stanley Research, wrote in a recent report to investors.
In addition to Bollinger, two other startups, Rivian and Workhorse Group, are developing electric trucks. And Ford Motor Co. plans an electric version of its F-150 pickup truck. Tesla also has an e-pickup in the works.
RIVIAN ON CENTER STAGE
Bollinger faces his stiffest challenge, at least for investors’ dollars and the media’s attention, from Rivian, another electric truck startup in the Detroit area.
Rivian has grabbed attention this year with a string of investment announcements totaling more $1 billion in financing from backers, including Amazon, Ford Motors Co., Cox Automotive and Sumitomo Corp.
Amazon has said it intends to order as many as 100,000 electric delivery trucks from Rivian. Ford plans to use Rivian’s electric “skateboard” platform, which contains critical drive and powertrain components, to underpin an electric truck.
NO MARKET COMPETITION
Rivian’s all-electric SUV and pickup feature smooth, modern design and loads of creature comforts. While offering features such as all-wheel drive and as much as 14.6-inches of ground clearance, they would be at home in suburban driveways as well as in the deep woods.
Bollinger has said he doesn’t see his company’s rugged, almost military-style trucks competing for the same buyers.
“Our trucks deliver a level of performance unlike anything on the market or coming to market,” he said.
Bollinger and Rivian still face a tough market, said Michael Ramsey, senior automotive research director at Gartner Inc.
“If they can really show they have more than the gasoline competitors, then they will be able to give it a shot at success,” he said.
“But it’s a hard business to break into so they will have to do a lot right to make it past the starting line,” Ramsey told Trucks.com.
IS THE PRICE RIGHT?
Bollinger’s pricing may keep the trucks in limited production.
While $125,000 is steep, it shouldn’t be an issue as long as customers perceive they are getting bang for their bucks, Ramsey said.
“People will pay more for more,” he said. EV maker Tesla’s strategy, “offering luxury pricing and providing performance capabilities and advanced technology, has worked,” he said.
But will they pay $125,000?
“It’s pretty expensive if you ask me,” Antti Lindstrom, an analyst with IHS Markit, told Trucks.com. “I’m having a little bit of a hard time seeing a pickup truck buyer ready and willing to fork over $125,000, even though its electric and expected to have cutting-edge technology. The price limits the audience”, he said.
COMBINING OLD AND NEW
The Bollinger trucks have styling similar to the early Land Rover Defender models – all flat planes and squared-off corners. Doors and sliding side windows are removable. Cargo area flooring is made of reclaimed wood – the SUVs’ from an old Buick plant, the pickups’ from salvaged pews from Detroit-area churches.
But there are numerous modern touches, including LED lighting, inboard brakes, offset portal gear hubs and a single-speed, dual-range transmission. There also is a hydro-pneumatic suspension, electronic locking differentials and dual electric motors – one for each axle.
Suspension travel is up to 5 inches higher or lower than the trucks’ standard 15-inch clearance.
There’s a central “pass-through” channel – with locking doors to prevent weather intrusion into the cab – that enable the SUV to carry boards and other cargo of up to 13-feet in length inside the SUV and of up to 16 feet long in the pickup, without opening the tailgate.
Bollinger will make the trucks’ flat roofs out of several removable, interchangeable panels. Owners can choose glass, aluminum or a combination. Each of the four bucket seats is available in cloth, “vegan leather” or real leather. The seats are heated and provide adjustable thigh support bolstering.