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Chevrolet Bolt EV and Chevrolet Sonic vehicles are assembled Tuesday, March 19, 2019 at the General Motors Orion plant in Orion Township, Michigan. (Photo by Jeffrey Sauger for Chevrolet)

Autonomous Vehicles

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General Motors announced this morning that it will invest $300 million into its Orion, Michigan, plant for a new Chevrolet-branded electric vehicle. The investment and buildout is expected to create 400 new jobs at the Orion plant.

Since killing off the plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt last year, the Orion plant is the heart of GM’s electrification strategy moving forward. The Chevrolet Bolt EV, Opel Ampera-e, and GM’s autonomous vehicles are all built in the Orion plant today alongside the internal combustion Chevrolet Spark.

The new investment will fund the development of a new Chevrolet electric vehicle that will be added to their ranks alongside the Bolt EV. GM is keeping the wraps on the upcoming EV for now, but the Michigan company said that the new vehicle will be designed and engineered off of “an advanced version” of the Bolt EV architecture.

“We are excited to bring these jobs and this investment to the US,” said GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra during an announcement at the plant with employees, elected officials, and community leaders. “This new Chevrolet electric vehicle is another positive step toward our commitment to an all-electric future. GM will continue to invest in our US operations where we see opportunities for growth.”

Production of the new electric vehicle had been planned for a site outside of the US, but GM opted to build it at the Orion plant for a number of reasons. At the top of that list, 2,800 GM employees were impacted by GM’s recent announcements of job cuts at GM’s “unallocated plants.”

The expansion of the Orion plant stacks on the plan GM announced last year about investment and expansion plans at some of its other plants for a total of 2,700 job openings. The company has already placed 1,100 of the 2,800 impacted employees at other plants, with more in the works, according to the company. Another 1,200 of the impacted employees are retirement eligible, which may ease the company-wide transition for them.

This new investment into electric vehicles is nice, but it is a drop in the bucket compared to what the company is dumping into its SUVs and trucks. GM said in last year’s announcement that, “In the past four years, GM has refocused capital and resources to support the growth of its crossovers, SUVs and trucks, adding shifts and investing $6.6 billion in US plants that have created or maintained 17,600 jobs.” GM’s investment into trucks will add 1,000 jobs at its Flint Truck Assembly Plant, its Lansing Delta Township Assembly Plant, and the Romulus Propulsion Plant.

Last year, Chevrolet announced that it trimming the fat in its organization in a push to streamline prior to accelerating into a future of Zero Emissions, Zero Fatalities, and Zero Congestion. Barra said that, “By working together, we can solve these challenges and deliver safer, better, and more sustainable transportation solutions for all of our customers.” Looking to the future, the real meat of GM’s investment into next-generation electric vehicles is slated for its Cadillac mark, when the time comes.

Whether that future comes to be or not remains to be seen as GM’s investments make it clear that the company is a truck company, and an internal combustion truck company at that. From where we sit, that’s a short-term game that sits at odds with the company’s statements to the public, its customers, and investors that it plans to become a zero-emission vehicle company soon.

Change requires investment and focus and it is clear that GM’s focus and money are being poured into antiquated technologies that have no future. The future is electric, Mary. Sorry.

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