Bollinger Motors landed a decent spot – for a newcomer – at this year’s Los Angeles Auto Show. The startup’s electric pickup and electric SUV are the first things show-goers see as they exit the first of two main exhibit halls at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
Now all Bollinger boss Robert Bollinger has to do is convert those lookers into buyers.
Bollinger is self-financing his truck company with money he made as an advertising executive and from the sale of a co-owned hair products company. That includes shouldering the enormous cost of developing of a pair of beefy, highly capable trucks.
He announced pricing last month. Each Bollinger model, the B1 SUV and B2 pickup, will start at $125.000. He told Trucks.com that Bollinger can survive on low-volume sales. It will target well-heeled adventure enthusiasts with a yen to be different.
That segment is about to get crowded. Since he started, Rivian Automotive entered the market with a tough, highly capable electric pickup and SUV that go on sale in late 2020. Ford plans to build an electric F-150, General Motors will start selling an electric pickup in 2021. And Tesla unveiled its electric pickup last week. Just about every major automaker has an electric SUV or crossover in the market or in development.
Bollinger sat down with Trucks.com at the L.A. Auto Show, which ends Sunday, to discuss his company and the electric truck market.
How does it feel to see Rivian land more than $1 billion in investor financing?
I think Rivian, Ford, an electric Silverado, they all will help us by making more people aware of electric trucks and what they can do. As for Rivian’s financing, they are doing a much more mass-market vehicle and they plan to build and sell tens of thousands a year. They need billions. We have always said that our plan one is to be a low-volume builder. We knew we wouldn’t be alone and couldn’t compete with the major mass-market companies. That’s why we decided to build the trucks we wanted, with all the features we could. Our trucks are crazy equipped and crazy different. People ether love them or hate them.
Have people told you that?
Oh, yeah. We took a prototype to SEMA (the automotive aftermarket industry trade show) two years ago and people would walk up and see the electric motor and just throw their arms up and walk away. I had one guy say he loves the truck but that the first thing he’s going to do it tear the electric motor out and throw in a diesel.
You can do whatever you want after you pay for it.
What sets you apart from those other electric trucks?
The others don’t have our off-road capabilities, with our portal hubs and 20 inches of ground clearance. Our trucks are highly customizable. For the real off-road adventurer, we promise more. But I hope the others can deliver on what they are promising, because the more electric trucks there are, the more the supply chain will grow and the cheaper parts and components will be. That will make us all more affordable.
You recently announced an improvement in power and range. Have there been changes since then?
Everything is flexible during development, but the specifications haven’t changed since our last announcement in September; 614 horsepower, up to 200 miles of range.
How long can you continue paying the bills yourself?
The business plan is to sell about 1,000 vehicles in year one, 2,000 the next, then 3,000 and by then we can be profitable. We do have a limited fund-raising program going on right now, but we want to stay in control of our destiny.
How are orders doing?
Most of our first-year production is accounted for now. Most of the orders are for the B1. It’s about 80 percent SUV and 20 percent pickup.
Where do you go after that?
We will do a 2-door version of the B1 (SUV), and we could stretch the cabin to enclose the pickup and have an extended length SUV. Our chassis is Class 3 rated and would be perfect for a medium-duty commercial step van or an ambulance, tow truck, a rugged territory rescue vehicle. And there are some non-combat military applications.
Have you talked to the military, or to commercial truck customers?
There have been some preliminary commercial inquiries, but nothing solid. And one of our consultants, Dave Taylor, is the former chief of staff at TARDEC (the Army’s tank and automotive research and development unit) and has connections there.
If and nothing happens on those fronts, will you really be content staying small?
We are a viable company with plan one. Anything more is gravy. If the floodgates open and more orders come in, for the original trucks of for offshoots, then we’ll deal with that. But we know that at our price point, and for what it is capable of, and what it looks like, this is a boutique adventure.