Stocks to sell

If You Bet on Workhorse, You’re Walking on Your Own

Prior to the U.S. Postal Service making its announcement regarding which company will replace its aging fleet of mail carriers, Workhorse (NASDAQ:WKHS) showed great promise. As the only fully electric-based proposal, the company aligned perfectly with the zero-emissions sentiment that was gradually building bipartisan support. Thus, WKHS stock appeared a no-brainer.

A Workhorse W-15 hybrid electric pickup truck on display at a branding event in Flatiron Plaza in New York.

Source: Shutterstock

As it turned out, this was the harshest of lessons. If something appears like guaranteed money and the masses are banking heavily on it, you might want to take a step back and assess if the opportunity really is as good as it seems. As I mentioned in a prior write-up for WKHS stock before the USPS made its announcement, Workhorse was not a shoo-in.

Not surprisingly, management didn’t agree with that sentiment, enough so that it filed a legal challenge in June to object to the USPS awarding the multi-billion-dollar contract to Oskhosh (NYSE:OSK), a defense contractor which teamed up with Ford (NYSE:F).

On the surface, it’s easy to understand Workhorse’s frustration. Oshkosh forwarded a combustion-engine-based proposal, which seemed awfully anachronistic given society’s push toward clean energy. In a way, I sympathize with Workhorse, which was caught in a David versus Goliath battle that didn’t go the way it was supposed to.

Plus, WKHS stock cratered and executives had to do something to show they cared about their business. However, a possible legal setback could make Workhorse’s recovery operation extremely difficult.

According to the USPS, the agency benefits from federal statutes that give it autonomy in procurement decisions. Further, the postal service requires aggrieved contractors to follow a two-step process for challenging procurement decisions. Apparently, Workhorse only completed the first step before improperly jumping the process and filing a lawsuit.

This is bad news because if the legal route fails, Workhorse may not have a viable avenue left.

Sadly for WKHS Stock, Oshkosh Is a Valid Choice

While the optics of Workhorse taking the fight to the USPS is perhaps gratifying for those that bought into WKHS stock, I don’t think it’s going to amount to much. I’m not much of a baseball expert but it’s akin to the manager coming out of the dugout to contest an umpire’s allegedly bad call.

It gives a cathartic moment for the fans, as well as demonstrating to impacted players that the manager has their backs. But as far as I can tell, nothing productive happens: there’s a bunch of angry words, some dust kicking, more angry words, more dust kicked up, then the umpire ultimately throws the offending manager out of the game.

Catharsis. That’s basically what stakeholders of WKHS stock can expect from Workhorse going all-out against the USPS. But the reality is that, contrary to the claims that the USPS acted unfairly to the EV enterprise, it had good reason to go with Oshkosh — and no, it’s not because I own F stock.

First, Oshkosh is, as I mentioned earlier, a defense contractor. You know what that means? Its tactical vehicles are put through the harshest climates under the most intense conditions. If Oshkosh fails, our servicemembers die. It’s as simple as that.

In contrast, Workhorse can’t even hit its year-end production target. No one’s firing rocket-propelled grenades at the company’s vehicles. There’s no life-or-death intensity involved. It just overpromised and is about to underdeliver. Perhaps USPS read between the lines well ahead of time?

Second, industry experts predict that lithium-ion battery pack costs will decline by nearly 58% between 2020 to 2030. So you have to look at the economic proposition as well. Why should the USPS go with a fully electric solution when it could get dramatically lower the cost of electric mail carriers just a decade down the line?

Workhorse Wandering Aimlessly

Despite everything I just stated above, I know what time it is. We’re living in a period where the fundamentals don’t matter. If something is popular on social media, it could jump higher. But would that be the case for WKHS stock?

Possibly. If you’re really set on advantaging the stock’s discount, you might want to check out InvestorPlace contributor Nicolas Chahine’s take on it, who suggests that the bearishness over Workhorse losing the USPS bid may be overdone.

But even if you were to take a purely technical approach to WKHS stock, I’m not sure what the bullish case is supposed to be. Just look at the most basic indicators, such as shares being underneath their 50-day and 200-day moving averages. That’s a classic bearish signal.

Still, if you want to go for it, it’s up to you. But I think you’ll be walking a lonely path since the company now lacks a north star.

On the date of publication, Josh Enomoto held a LONG position in F. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.

A former senior business analyst for Sony Electronics, Josh Enomoto has helped broker major contracts with Fortune Global 500 companies. Over the past several years, he has delivered unique, critical insights for the investment markets, as well as various other industries including legal, construction management, and healthcare.

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