GM to announce new electric car to be built at Orion

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

General Motors Co. is expected to announce next week at the Chicago Auto Show that it will build the all-electric Chevrolet Bolt at its Orion Assembly Plant in Orion Township, according to a source familiar with the automaker’s plans.

Another source, who asked not to be identified because the plans haven’t been announced yet, confirmed the electric car — shown last month as a concept with the Bolt name — will go into production and will be built in Orion Township.

A GM spokeswoman declined comment.

The Detroit automaker last month at the North American International Auto Show revealed the Bolt concept, an about $30,000 pure electric car after rebates that would get 200 miles-plus of electric range. GM executives last month at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit wouldn’t say for sure if the hatchback with seating for five would be built by GM, but said it could come to market in a year or two. In November, GM said it would invest $160 million into Orion for tooling and equipment for a future vehicle, but GM didn’t name it.

LMC Automotive is forecasting the Bolt would go into production at Orion in late 2016 and would go on sale in 2017, said Jeff Schuster, the firm’s senior vice president of forecasting.

Workers at Orion Assembly build the small Buick Verano and subcompact Chevrolet Sonic.

The Troy-based firm said it expects GM to produce in the high 20,000 to low 30,000 range of the Chevy electric car annually once production is ramped up, Schuster said.

Chevrolet is expected to begin producing a new Sonic at the Orion plant in late spring next year, Schuster said. The Sonic and Bolt will be built off the same platform, “which is why Orion makes the most sense” to build the new Bolt, Schuster said.

The plant also will cut two weeks of production — one week later this month and one week in April — to trim small car inventories, as sales have been plagued by low gas prices.

Schuster said LMC is expecting the Verano will move out of Orion Assembly in the middle of 2016 to GM’s Ramos Arizpe assembly plant in Mexico.

Last month, GM executives told The Detroit News the Chevy Bolt name could be changed, as critics have complained the name is too close to the Chevy Volt, GM’s plug-in hybrid car. GM North America President Alan Batey said the company needs to communicate the name. He called the Bolt “the brother of the Volt — a bolt of lightning. It’s all to do with electricity.”

Batey is the featured speaker at an opening breakfast Thursday at the Chicago Auto Show.

GM builds the Volt at its Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant. The automaker revealed the next generation 2016 Volt, with 50 miles of electric range before shifting to a gasoline engine, during the Detroit auto show; it goes on sale later this year.

GM said in November it would lay off 160 employees at Orion Assembly beginning in January 2015 through the end of the year. The plant has about 1,750 hourly workers.

Tesla Motors Inc. also is planning to bring a Tesla Model 3 electric car to market. The Model 3 is expected to cost about $35,000 before a federal tax credit, meaning it would be about $2,500 cheaper than the Bolt.

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