On Monday, General Motors announced its plans to build all-electric trucks and SUVs, along with the Cruise Origin, an electric autonomous ride sharing vehicle, at the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant. The plant, which currently employs 900 workers and produces the Cadillac CT6 and the Chevrolet Impala, will become GM’s first and only dedicated factory producing 100% battery electric vehicles. I spoke with GM leadership about the news. Some initial notes are below. More are coming in a future article.
GM will invest a total of $2.2 billion in retooling the Hamtramck plant along, with $800 million in supplier tooling and other projects related to the launch of the new electric trucks. GM said production is scheduled to begin in late 2021, but has not announced under which brand its first all-electric pickup will be launched.
GM is planning a Super Bowl ad which could be where they reveal whether the first new electric truck will be a Chevrolet, GMC, or Hummer. In early January, rumors surfaced that the ad would feature NBA star LeBron James revealing a new all-electric Hummer truck under the brand Hummer by GMC.
The press conference held at the Hamtramck assembly plant was attended by dozens of officials, from the Governor of Michigan to the local head of the United Auto Workers union. The announcement was met with much excitement in the community thanks in no small part to the planned creation of 2,200 new manufacturing jobs.
More exciting to me and for the future of electric vehicle adoption in the US and globally was GM’s clear and serious commitment to battery electric vehicles. In multiple meetings I had with GM executives across charging infrastructure, manufacturing, battery research, and senior leadership, it was clear that fully electric vehicles (BEVs) are no longer a “hobby” at GM.
In a private session, I and a handful of EV journalists had the opportunity to ask candid questions of GM President Mark Reuss.
While he provided little detail on the upcoming models, Reuss did share that an EV platform known as BEV3 will be the foundation of several BEVs across multiple GM brands, model types, and segments. And perhaps most importantly, he said that the EVs that roll off the Hamtramck assembly line will be profitable from day one. He also confirmed that unlike many legacy automakers, GM would not be producing any new hybrids in the future and its electric vehicle strategy is based on producing only 100% battery electric vehicles.
One of my biggest “aha” moments of the day was when I asked Reuss about the challenge of getting GM dealers excited about selling EVs. Reuss shared that, “two cars don’t make an EV strategy,” meaning that with only one or two models on the lot, many dealers simply didn’t take EVs that seriously. With a new focus and pipeline of multiple trucks and SUVs, it was now incumbent upon GM to make dealers believe in the future of EVs, according to Reuss.
If a dealer is carrying a single or two EVs, out of a portfolio of a dozen or more vehicles, it is easy for the dealers to basically pay little attention. But show the dealers you are serious, revealing several BEVs across multiple brands and segments, and EVs are no longer viewed as “part time.”
In a subsequent tour of GM’s Warren Tech Center, we had a chance to see current and future battery packs being tested and also speak with Tim Grewe, Director – Global Battery Cell Engineering & Strategy. While I can’t share the name, GM will clearly be expanding its battery supply chain with new companies beyond LG Chem to ensure that battery supply is not an issue. Like many automakers, GM is exploring several emerging battery technologies, such as solid-state batteries, cobalt-free cells, recycling and reuse, and incorporating driving habits and use cases into how to optimize battery size, configuration, and technologies. While encouraged about the future of solid-state batteries, Grewe sees them not becoming commercially viable for perhaps another 5 or 6 years.
In a future article, I’ll delve more deeply into the conversations I was able to have with multiple GM executives and why I think GM is serious about EVs this time with the development of its BEV3 platform.
GM provided airfare, lodging, and meals to enable CleanTechnica contributor Loren McDonald to cover this story.
Below is the full GM press release of the announcement.
Detroit-Hamtramck to be GM’s First Assembly Plant 100 Percent Devoted to Electric Vehicles
$2.2 billion investment will support 2,200 good-paying manufacturing jobs
DETROIT — General Motors’ (NYSE: GM) vision of an all-electric future is coming into clearer focus and gaining momentum with a $2.2 billion investment at its Detroit- Hamtramck assembly plant to produce a variety of all-electric trucks and SUVs. GM’s first all-electric truck will be a pickup with production scheduled to begin in late 2021. This will be followed soon after by the Cruise Origin, a shared, electric, self-driving vehicle unveiled by Cruise in San Francisco last week. Detroit-Hamtramck will be GM’s first fully-dedicated electric vehicle assembly plant.
“Through this investment, GM is taking a big step forward in making our vision of an all-electric future a reality,” said Mark Reuss, GM president during a press event at the plant with Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and other local and state officials. “Our electric pickup will be the first of multiple electric truck variants we will build at Detroit-Hamtramck over the next few years.”
When the plant is fully operational, this investment will create more than 2,200 good-paying U.S. manufacturing jobs.
GM will also invest an additional $800 million in supplier tooling and other projects related to the launch of the new electric trucks.
Since the fall of 2018, GM has committed to invest more than $2.5 billion in Michigan to bring electric vehicles to market through investments at Orion assembly, GM battery lab in Warren, Brownstown and today’s announced direct investment in Detroit-Hamtramck.
The plant’s paint and body shops and general assembly area will receive comprehensive upgrades, including new machines, conveyors, controls and tooling.
GM’s joint venture with LG Chem – which is investing $2.3 billion to manufacture battery cells in Lordstown, Ohio – will supply battery cells for the electric vehicles manufactured at Detroit-Hamtramck.
A key driver behind GM’s decision to make the commitment to Detroit-Hamtramck was the support this project received from the State of Michigan.
“The support from the state of Michigan was a key element in making this investment possible,” added Reuss. “This investment helps ensure that Michigan will remain at the epicenter of the global automotive industry as we continue our journey to an electrified future.”
Detroit Hamtramck currently operates on one shift of production and builds the Cadillac CT6 and the Chevrolet Impala. Approximately 900 people are employed at the plant. As previously confirmed, the plant will be idled for several months beginning at the end of February as the renovations begin.
The plant has built more than 4 million vehicles since opening in 1985. Hourly employees at Detroit Hamtramck are represented by UAW Local 22.