Granholm back in Michigan, gets a glimpse of 'guilt-free' Hummer EV

Kalea Hall
The Detroit News

Detroit —  Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm came back to Michigan Thursday to tout the president's Build Back Better agenda for infrastructure investments, including support for the auto industry's emissions-free transformation. 

The former Michigan governor used General Motors Co.'s Factory Zero at Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Center as a backdrop to her visit because the former internal combustion plant is transitioning to make all-electric vehicles, starting later this year with the GMC Hummer EV pickup truck. 

Energy Secretary and former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm was joined on her tour of General Motors Co.'s Factory Zero Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant by U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, far left, as well as other elected, UAW and GM officials.

Granholm toured Metro Detroit on the day President Joe Biden, joined by leaders of the Detroit Three automakers, presented a plan to gradually raise mileage and emissions standards over the next five years and set a goal of making half of all new vehicles sold in 2030 emissions-free. 

Detroit automakers GM, Ford Motor Co. and Stellantis NV said they will aim to sell 40% to 50% emission-free vehicles annually by 2030. 

“The Detroit Three are at the White House and we're here showing what exactly they're talking about, which means that we're gonna have 50% of the new vehicles produced by GM, Ford … be all-electric,” Granholm said. “And that vehicle, that Hummer … is so guilt-free. You can drive a big ole’ car guilt-free without having to worry about emissions.”

Energy Secretary and former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm tours General Motors Co.'s Factory Zero Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant Thursday, Aug. 5.

Granholm added that the committed aspiration from the Detroit Three automakers means “we're going to be building the supply chains here in Michigan, we're going to be building the vehicles here in Michigan, Michigan is the point of the spear with respect to the future of the electric vehicle.”

Top surrogates for the president are traveling throughout the country as part of a "massive push" to tout his $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package, which includes electric vehicle infrastructure investment. Granholm made several stops Thursday in Metro Detroit, starting with a walking tour of a Magna International Inc. plant in Holly and ending with the visit to GM's only Detroit assembly plant. 

Factory Zero at Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Center is one of five North American plants GM has selected so far to build electric vehicles. The GMC Hummer EV pickup and SUV, self-driving Cruise Origin shuttle and the electric Chevrolet Silverado will all come out of this plant one day. Hummer EV pickup production will be the first to roll off the line starting in late 2021.   

GM placed Detroit-Hamtramck, which opened in 1985, on a potential closure list in 2018. But instead of closing the facility, GM agreed during 2019 national contract talks with the United Auto Workers to keep the plant open. The Detroit automaker is investing $2.2 billion to build electric vehicles there.

Construction at the plant started after the last Chevrolet Impalas were built in late February 2020, shortly before COVID-19 hit Michigan.

GM in June upped its EV and autonomous technology development spending to $35 billion through 2025. The automaker plans to have 30 EVs globally in that same timeframe.

GM Executive Vice President of Global Manufacturing Gerald Johnson, who was present throughout Thursday's tour, said Granholm previously visited when the plant was making the Chevrolet Volt hybrid vehicle. Granholm has owned a Volt and currently drives a Chevrolet Bolt EV. 

"The partnership with us and government is necessary for this transformation to happen at the pace that we just committed to and … that President Biden just committed to," Johnson said, noting infrastructure, consumer and business incentives to help in the transition are welcome from the government to aid in the effort.  

Democratic U.S. Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Detroit and Brenda Lawrence of Southfield were also on the Factory Zero tour and discussed training with GM plant leaders who joined. 

“I can't imagine a young person walking through this facility, seeing how this is relevant versus the old factories where they don't see them fitting, so we must retrain,” Lawrence said. “We must invest in the next generation of skilled trades … I'm excited about getting the next generation into moving this country forward.”

Factory Zero will eventually have more than 2,000 employees working on EVs. Some of them previously worked at the plant making internal combustion vehicles. 

UAW Local 22 Shop Chairman Mike Plater said GM's EV sales commitment is "a big deal for this plant ... we'll build great products for customers. Local 22 will show up and show out to build these products." 

Staff writer Riley Beggin contributed.

Twitter: @bykaleahall