GM to use supplier for some production of EV600 delivery van
Detroit — General Motors Co. plans to have supplier Kuka AG make a small number of BrightDrop EV600 delivery vans this year, the automaker confirmed Monday after Reuters first reported the partnership, citing sources.
“The interest we’re receiving is significant,” said Travis Katz, BrightDrop president and CEO, in a statement. “We are working alongside Kuka for initial low-volume production to keep up with market demand and remain on track to deliver our first EV600 order later this year."
GM will utilize a Livonia Kuka plant to build fewer than 500 of the EV600 vans, according to the Reuters report. GM confirmed the first EV600 vans will be built at the Livonia facility but did not specify how many would be produced.
Kuka is a German robotic systems manufacturer. Mike LaRose, president and CEO of Kuka Automotive Group-America, said in an email the company "has no official response or comment regarding Brightdrop."
GM said production of the EV600 will start in November 2022 at CAMI Assembly in Ingersoll, Ontario.
Mike Van Boekel, chairman of Unifor Local 88 representing about 1,500 workers at CAMI Assembly, said GM wants to get production of the EV600 going: "The first non-saleables will be built there (at Kuka) just because we're full out with Equinox trying to make as many as we can."
Production of the Chevrolet Equinox at CAMI is slated to end in April 2022 for retooling of the EV600. The Chevy SUV will continue to be made at two GM plants in Mexico.
"They originally told us we weren't going to build the BrightDrop for about two years but the sales look like they're in such strong demand they want to roll out a year earlier," Van Boekel said.
CAMI was shut down for several months this year due to the global semiconductor shortage that has affected the industry since the start of this year. The plant is on its second week of summer shutdown, but will take off another two weeks starting July 19 for the chip shortage — that's after already shutting down from early February through early June for the supply constraint.
The long-term plan for CAMI "is very good," but the period of shutdown for retooling will be rough, Van Boekel said.
"But, I mean, at least we got a product and it looks like our future is going to be very strong," he said.
GM in January introduced BrightDrop, a new electric business focused on aiding delivery and logistics companies with electric software, services. One of its first products will be the EV600, an electric delivery van. GM said then the van would be on roads in late 2021 with FedEx already ordering 500 of them. It's supposed to be available to more customers in 2022.
The EV600 will be powered by GM's new Ultium battery system and has an estimated range of up to 250 miles on a full charge.