New Lordstown Motors CEO first Black auto chief in 100 years

Edward Hightower was named the CEO of Lordstown Motors Corp. on Tuesday, making him the first Black CEO of a U.S. automaker in more than 100 years.

“It’s something I’m proud of. I’m proud of my heritage, I’m proud of my race,” Hightower told Automotive News on Tuesday. “The thing that I spend the most time focusing on is how I deliver for my customers and how I deliver for the team. I think my background helps.”

Hightower was promoted to CEO after being president of the company. Lordstown Motors also announced several other management moves.

Though other Black men have risen to high automotive executive roles — such as Ed Welburn, General Motors’ former vice president of global design, and Ralph Gilles, the chief design officer at Stellantis and a member of its top executive team — Hightower has made history with his new position.

Hightower, 57, hails from Chicago and earned a bachelor’s degree in general engineering from the University of Illinois and an MBA from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. Later, he held several engineering, strategy, brand marketing and senior executive roles for GM, Ford and BMW.

Hightower said his background has prepared him for the role at Lordstown Motors.

“I’ve grown my career in the automotive industry because I’ve been passionate about it. My entire life, I was passionate about cars,” Hightower said. “Growing up in Chicago, I was good in math and science. So I’m blessed to have the career I’ve had so far. I look forward to continuing it with this transition toward electrification and leading Lordstown.”

Longtime automotive communications executive Randi Payton, CEO of Decisive Media, said Hightower is highly qualified for the job.

“I give my hats off to Ed Hightower, because Ed has been doing something that very few executives have done, not only in the U.S., with a wide range of experience, but he’s also global,” Payton said. “I think Ed is highly qualified to be the CEO of a major auto company.”