Canoo CEO Tony Aquila Talks Vehicle Design, Vision for Market at NWA Council Meeting

Canoo CEO Tony Aquila Talks Vehicle Design, Vision for Market at NWA Council Meeting
(Mapbox / Benton County Assessor)

Canoo Inc. CEO Tony Aquila discussed how the electric vehicle startup decided to come to Arkansas, its vision for the auto market and the unique design of its vehicles at the Northwest Arkansas Council's winter meeting on Friday.

He also revealed the address of the company's new manufacturing facility and headquarters in Bentonville: 4700 SW Regional Airport Road, north of two Walmart distribution centers.

At the meeting, which was held in Bentonville and live streamed for registered attendees, Aquila said an algorithm helped bring the company to the eastern Oklahoma-northwest Arkansas region.

“We couldn't find why do other states win these big factory projects. It’s because of those state lines. So we wrote an algorithm. We erased state lines, and we just studied the diversity of people. And you know what? [Walmart heiress] Alice [Walton] was right. This region pops up,” Aquila said, noting that governors of both states and the Cherokee Nation chief working together helped make the project possible.

He said, too, that Canoo is focused on value creation rather than profitability, though other companies he’s done this with have been very profitable.

The company envisions a new kind of worker, “a light blue collar,” he said. Not only that, but its electric vehicles are designed with working families in mind.

Aquila said an electric vehicle isn’t just great for the environment; it also puts “$4,000 on a working family’s table every year” because they commute more and drive older cars that burn more gas and need to be fixed more frequently.

A typical car has about 6,000-7,000 parts, he said, while Canoo’s has about 3,000. “That's how you make it affordable to the masses. You have to re-engineer it. So it's a hybrid of aviation technology, industrial technology and automotive,” he said.

Canoo’s vehicles are also unique because the chassis, or the base frame of the vehicle, is sold separately from the top hat, or upper body structure.

“The working person should not have to buy a chassis more than once,” Aquila said. “These are million-mile chassis, so we made the chassis completely separate. And so, as your life changes, you can change your top hat and not your chassis.” This saves families another $12,000 to $18,000, he said.

In addition, Aguila spoke about Canoo using a Quonset Hut design for its factory. The term refers to a lightweight prefabricated structure of corrugated galvanized steel having a semi cylindrical cross-section.

The Quonset Hut design not only reduces cost but will make Canoo’s factory more beautiful and a place people want to visit, he said.

“We created an ethos that was a high bar. So we're going to build the best factory that's ever been built. In fact, you won't even see it. Because we built it within the topography. We’ll camouflage it just like they did in World War II when they built munitions here. You can fly over and wouldn't see it,” Aquila said.

The factor will be hydro powered as well, and 50% of Canoo’s workforce will be Native Americans and veterans, he said.

More On This Story