GM ups EV commitment with plan to build electric Silverado
Detroit — The General Motors Co. assembly plant here once slated to close now will build the electric version of the automaker's profit-rich Chevrolet Silverado — another sign of GM's commitment to EVs despite the sliver of sales such vehicles so far deliver.
Factory Zero Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Center will assemble the electrified Chevy pickup in addition to theGMC Hummer EV truck and SUV and the Cruise Origin, an autonomous, electric shuttle, GM President Mark Reuss said Tuesday. That gives the Detroit plant four EVs, and forecasters also expect Cadillac SUVs and a GMC-branded electric pickup to be built there, too.
"I am truly grateful and excited that this facility, which has built more than 4 million vehicles since 1985, will help lead us into that future of transportation," Reuss said at the event.
Factory Zero is one of four EV plants that GM has planned in North America. The products built there are central to helping the automaker achieve its ambitious aspiration of having a zero-emissions lineup by 2035.
To get there, though, GM is pushing to address both EV cost and the lack of charging infrastructure — both obstacles to wider adoption of such vehicles. Automakers are seeking government partnership, for charging infrastructure or even subsidies, to help make the EV transition with a comprehensive plan.
Last week, President Joe Biden introduced a $2 trillion infrastructure and jobs proposal that includes a $174 billion investment in electrification by subsidizing domestic supply chains for EVs, providing grant programs to state and local governments to install 500,000 charging stations nationwide by 2030, and increasing EV purchasing incentives for consumers. He also wants to replace the federal fleet with zero-emissions vehicles.
The proposal, which faces an uphill battle in a closely-divided Congress, was praised and supported by United Auto Workers and government officials at Tuesday's Detroit-Hamtramck event announcing the coming of the electric Silverado.
"I just want to tell you as the lead in the United States Senate Finance Committee working with President Biden on those incentives he talked about, it's not if, it's when," said U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing. "Because we're gonna' get it done so we can support what you're doing, and create good-paying American jobs in Michigan."
EVs make up only about 2% of total auto sales, but GM and other automakers are still investing billions to make more of them. This is the first year GM will spend more on battery-powered products than on gas-and-diesel-powered vehicles, with $7 billion earmarked for EV investment.
"General Motors is going to partner with other companies, as is all the rest of the auto companies, but that's a big haul to make sure that there's chargers," said UAW Vice President Terry Dittes, director of the union's GM Department. "And, let's face it, the federal government has the leeway to provide incentives for the American public to buy these beautiful products made right here in the USA by UAW Local 22 members."
Local 22 represents workers at the Detroit plant that GM previously planned to close. GM stopped making the discontinued Chevrolet Impala and Cadillac CT6 sedans early last year and began the work to turn the factory into an electric-vehicle plant. GM is investing more than $2 billion on the transition. The plant will eventually employ 2,200.
"What GM and the UAW are doing at this site is amazing," Mayor Mike Duggan said. "The expansion from two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half-million square feet, $2 billion investment, more than 2,000 full-time workers will be here and ultimately building more than 250,000 electric vehicles a year coming off the assembly line here in Detroit. It's just inspirational."
GM hasn't said how many vehicles will be made at the plant annually. Factory Zero's first product will be the Hummer EV pickup truck, which will roll off the line later this year, followed by the Cruise Origin. An SUV version of the 2024 Hummer EV, which GM just recently unveiled, will come in early 2023.
GM did not release a production timetable for the electric Silverado. The automaker did reveal that the vehicle will have an estimated range of more than 400 miles on a full charge — an impressive number if confirmed in real-world driving.
There will be retail and fleet versions of the electric Silverado that GM's Reuss said "will offer customers a variety of innovative options and configuration. I'm particularly excited about its potential in the fleet and commercial space, a crucial part of the EV market, especially initially."
The EV Silverado is joining a list of other electric trucks coming over the next few years. Ford Motor Co. is planning an electric F-150, Tesla Inc. has its Cybertruck and EV startups Rivian and Lordstown Motors are Corp. also releasing electric trucks.
GM builds its hot-selling gas-powered Silverado light-duty pickup at the Fort Wayne Assembly plant in Indiana, in Mexico and starting next year in Canada. The heavy-duty version is built in Flint.
In a statement, GM spokesman Dan Flores said that Tuesday's news of the electric Silverado going to the Detroit plant would have "no impact" on GM's full-size truck plants, which also produce gas-powered versions of the GMC Sierra pickup.
"We are selling every single Silverado and Sierra we can build, and we need those plants to stay focused on building those products and continuing to help GM dominate those truck segments." Flores said.
"At the same time, the products that come out of Factory Zero will let us learn more about the EV market and what customers want, gauge the pace of customer adoption of EV vehicles including trucks, and help us learn more about producing EVs products of this size and complexity so we can be prepared to expand to additional EV truck production in the future."
More information on the electric Silverado is expected in coming months.