GM is configuring a plant to only build electric vehicles. Here’s GM’s plan and why it matters.
For the past couple of years, General Motors’ spokespeople and executives have been using the buzzwords, “All-Electric Future…” whenever they can insert the EV mantra into a discussion about product planning. Concurrent with that, GM has launched three important new vehicles. The Silverado/Sierra pickup twins, the Suburban/Tahoe Full-Sized SUV twins, and the iconic Corvette. All of these new products come with a gasoline V-8 engine. None are offered in a green version. Electric vehicle fans and advocates have rightfully been wondering when GM will stop talking the talk and start walking the walk. The answer is “next month.”
That is when GM will cease production on the liquid-fueled Cadillac CT6 and Impala sedans it makes at its Detroit-Hamtramck plant. GM’s plan is to gut the facility and prepare it for making nothing by electric vehicles. Instead of a “car,” which shoppers are finding less appealing, GM will build EVs in two forms that it knows buyers need and want more of. The first is a cubical people-mover developed with help from Honda that will operate autonomously in urban areas as a ride-share vehicle. Called the Cruise Origin, it was previewed recently in San Francisco. The second vehicle will be a pickup truck. GM has been hinting at its EV pickup plans for years, but this is the first solid evidence we have that one is really coming from GM.
This plant is not the largest plant GM operates, but it is a full-scale manufacturing plant that has in the past operated two production lines concurrently. The plant is about 4.1-million square feet, a bit smaller than the 5.3-million square foot Fremont manufacturing facility that GM used to own, which is now operated by Tesla Motors. Is it really that surprising that the first two American plants that will produce electric vehicles in volume are former GM plants? Where will the batteries for the vehicles made in Detroit come from? GM’s new large-scale joint venture battery plant with LG Chem located in Ohio.
For context on how a plant this size contributes to its community, we look to a few metrics that GM supplies to the media. The first is the employee headcount. Currently, the plant operates just one shift and employs about 900 workers. GM says it will staff up to about 2,200 workers to build its EVs. In 2018, with the smaller headcount, GM paid $132,006,736.77 in wages. Those wages generated $22,307,279.82 in taxes for the community. Those numbers will increase by a multiplier of approximately 2.5 when the plant is fully operational again.
GM has not yet provided a timeline for the Cruise Origin people-mover, but says that the new electric pickup truck will be shipping to dealers by the end of 2021.