EV startup Canoo says it will relocate corporate headquarters to Bentonville

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 8,976 views 

Electric vehicle startup Canoo said Monday (Nov. 15) it’s planning for a major expansion in Northwest Arkansas.

The Texas company, based in Justin near Dallas/Fort Worth, said in its third-quarter earnings release that it’s selected Bentonville for its corporate headquarters and advanced industrialization facility. The company also plans a research and development center in Fayetteville.

In March of this year, Tony Aquila became the company’s CEO. Previously based in Los Angeles, the company expects to begin production of its cars in 2022.

“In June we announced Pryor, Okla., as the location for our owned manufacturing facility.” Aquila said in the earnings release. “We have expanded this partnership to include Arkansas and additional locations in Oklahoma. We will now focus on completing the definitive agreements with each state, which will include approximately $100 million in additional non-dilutive financial incentives, making the total approximately $400 million.”

Aquila said that in addition to those agreements, Canoo is targeting approximately $100 million in vehicle orders with the states and universities where the company is locating the facilities.

Canoo has approximately 800 employees. According to its website, Canoo has offices in California, Texas, Michigan and Minnesota. The company says its unique design delivers the interior space of a large SUV atop the footprint of a compact car.

In the third-quarter earnings call, Aquila explained the advanced manufacturing facility in Arkansas will allow the company to produce electric vehicles for “unique-use cases as well as accelerate our testing into gamma. We’re looking for ways to take down the traditional go-to-market way, and this will produce vehicles that will sell as well.

“That facility will be an area of innovation for us and rapid prototyping, so we can push through gamma faster on the other derivatives and get product to market from there while we’re tooling up in the factory in Pryor, Okla.”

He noted that technology hubs in Tulsa and Fayetteville will support research and development in electronics, powertrain and battery vehicle engineering and testing. Other new locations include a software development center in Tulsa and a customer support and finance center in Oklahoma City. Engineering and vehicle design will remain the focus at its California facility, he said. Combined, the facilities are expected to employ up to 1,200 people, said Aquila, adding that they will provide “high education and jobs in the region.”

“I’d like to thank (Oklahoma) Gov. (Kevin) Stitt and (Arkansas) Gov. (Asa) Hutchinson and their teams for their support and commitment in championing advanced manufacturing jobs and high-tech innovation opportunities in their states. Their forward-thinking will create high-tech jobs in their states for the new EV economy.

“These are two amazing governors,” he added. “They are businessmen. They get it. They know how to help. They want to create high-tech jobs. This is a new industry in the corridor, and they’ve been extremely helpful.”

Aquila expects its advanced manufacturing production in the United States to begin before the fourth quarter of 2022. Its Lifestyle Vehicle will have a base price of $34,750, a 250-mile range and up to seven seats, according to the company’s website.

According to a news release, the investments in Arkansas will bring at least 545 high-paying jobs to Benton and Washington counties.

“Canoo’s selection of Northwest Arkansas for its corporate headquarters, technology hub and development facilities is an excellent example of why our state has put so much effort and energy into computer science education and workforce training and development in recent years,” Hutchinson said. “As a leader in technology with a talent pool that prioritizes innovation, hard work and entrepreneurship, Arkansas shares many of the values that Canoo embodies, making this partnership a natural fit.”

The release shows that the announcement is part of transforming the U.S. Highway 412 corridor from Oklahoma through Arkansas into a center of electric vehicle research, development and manufacturing power.

“Canoo is an American-made company with a vision for modernizing the future with its electric vehicle technology, and I am pleased that it will be making that vision come to life in Arkansas,” Arkansas Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston said. “Northwest Arkansas is one of the fastest-growing regions in the United States and a hub for technology and business development. I am confident that Northwest Arkansas and Canoo are perfect matches for each other. We expect great things from this partnership in the coming years and are happy to welcome Canoo to the Natural State.”

Asked why Bentonville was selected as the site for its new headquarters, a company spokeswoman said the proximity to its new manufacturing facility in Pryor, and the benefits of its headquarters being nearby, especially that it’s within a two-hour drive. Also, Oklahoma and Arkansas are connected via rail and interstate systems, which connect to the Tulsa port network. That will allow materials to be transported quickly and easily between the two locations, according to the company.

And, the logistics and shipping infrastructure is already in place with the existing retail industry presence in the region, especially in Bentonville. According to the company, it’s also a favorable environment for attracting the employees and talent that will fit its needs. The company also highlighted the area’s quality of life and innovation and business benefits.

The company will share details as they become available on when its headquarters will open and where it will be.

Founded in 2017, Canoo was originally called Evelozcity. According to The Verge,  a handful of executives and employees left Faraday Future, an EV startup that was dealing with severe cash constraints at the time, to create the company. Canoo was initially focused on creating an electric van that it planned to sell on a subscription model, and at one point was in talks with Apple regarding an acquisition.

Editor’s note: Northwest Arkansas Business Journal reporter Jeff Della Rosa contributed to this report.