GM announces $7 billion in Michigan EV, battery investment

Kalea Hall
The Detroit News

General Motors Co. confirmed Tuesday it will invest nearly $7 billion for electric vehicle and battery production at four Michigan sites, creating 4,000 new jobs and retaining 1,000. 

The Detroit automaker is announcing the single largest investment in its history in Lansing alongside Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer after the state's Michigan Strategic Fund Board approved $824.1 million in incentives for the projects Tuesday morning. 

General Motors Chair and CEO Mary Barra announces Tuesday, January 25, 2022 a GM investment of more than $7 billion in four Michigan manufacturing sites that includes building a new Ultium Cells battery cell plant in Lansing and converting the GM Orion Assembly plant to build full-size electric pickups. The investment will create 4,000 new jobs and retain 1,000. Barra made the announcement from the Senate Hearing Room of the Boji Tower in Lansing, Michigan.

GM, like other automakers, is in the midst of shifting its portfolio of products and plants to build electric vehicles. The automaker is spending more than $30 billion through 2025 to meet its stated goals of 30 EV product offerings globally by 2025 and 1 million EV sales in that same timeframe. 

Tuesday's announcement gives GM three U.S. battery cell manufacturing sites, with a fourth one coming. It also provides more EV production capacity at a plant already building the electric Chevrolet Bolt EV and EUV: Orion Assembly, which like Factory Zero at Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Center will build the electric Chevrolet Silverado EV and GMC Sierra, giving GM capacity to build 600,000 electric pickup trucks when both plants are fully running.

"We'll have over a million units of battery electric vehicle capacity in the United States by 2025, and that 600,000 is a major part of that," GM President Mark Reuss said on a call with media Tuesday. "As we see the transition happening, we know the adoption rate has really increased over the last year or two. We've done that research and we see the acceptance of the newly introduced Silverado as very, very positive, and high as well."

The incentives for GM's investment were created by Whitmer in collaboration with the Republican-led state Legislature to spur economic development by companies like GM. Whitmer and lawmakers put $1 billion into the initiative after losing out on an $11.4 billion investment by GM's crosstown rival Ford Motor Co., which chose to take similar EV projects south to Kentucky and Tennessee.

"We are thrilled and so fortunate that GM's home is in Michigan and they're growing in Michigan," Whitmer said at Tuesday's announcement. GM and I share the same philosophy: 'Everybody In.' That's our responsibility to make sure that Michiganders know that we're putting them first and we're not leaving anyone behind."

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, who also attended the event, said: "The economic well-being of our state isn't a partisan matter. High-quality jobs don't have a party affiliation. And I'm proud to have on this stage with me some lawmakers who played an important role in making this day happen."

GM will invest $4 billion at Orion to transition it for electric pickup production with site work slated to start immediately and electric truck production starting there in 2024. The investment should create more than 2,350 new jobs at Orion and retain about 1,000 jobs when the plant is fully operational. The automaker estimates the new jobs at Orion will be filled by a combination of GM transferees and new hires.

The plant will receive a new body and paint shops and new general assembly and battery pack assembly areas. Production of the Chevrolet Bolt EV and EUV will continue during the plant’s conversion, GM said. Bolt production is down through February as GM prioritizes new batteries for Bolts recalled for battery fire risk. 

The expanded electric truck capacity comes after crosstown rival Ford Motor Co. earlier this month said it was nearly doubling production of its all-electric F-150 Lightning pickup truck in Dearborn for the second time. The increase means Ford will assemble 150,000 vehicles annually after nearly 200,000 people opted to reserve the pickup. The company in September said it was investing an additional $250 million into the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center and two components facilities to increase annual production to 80,000 vehicles.

The F-150 Lightning arrives this spring. GM's Silverado EV will arrive in 2023. 

To power its new electric products, GM is adding more battery cell capacity in a state where it has its largest manufacturing footprint. GM and LG Energy Solution, through their joint venture Ultium Cells LLC, are investing $2.6 billion to build the third U.S. battery plant they have planned. Two others are in northeast Ohio and Spring Hill, Tennessee. Battery cells go inside the battery packs that power EVs. 

The Michigan investment is expected to create more than 1,700 new Ultium Cells jobs when the plant is fully operational. Work on the project will start this summer and battery cell production is scheduled to begin in late 2024. The plant will supply cells to the products made at Orion Assembly and other plants. 

On Tuesday, GM also announced it would invest more than $510 million in its two Lansing-area vehicle assembly plants to upgrade their production capabilities for gas-powered products. Lansing Delta Township Assembly will receive the investment for production of the next-generation Chevrolet Traverse and Buick Enclave and Lansing Grand River Assembly will have plant upgrades.

In a statement, United Auto Workers President Ray Curry and Terry Dittes, UAW vice president and director of the union's GM Department, hailed the investment, saying it "creates a strong future for UAW members, their families and communities."

"General Motors is investing in Michigan because of the skills and quality work of our members, and we are all proud of this investment in our industry's future for decades to come,” the two UAW leaders said.

President Joe Biden, who is seeking incentives of up to $12,500 for union-made, U.S.-produced EVs as part of his Build Back Better Agenda, said GM's investment in Michigan "is the latest sign that my economic strategy is helping power an historic American manufacturing comeback."

"From day one, my Administration has been laser focused on making sure that America leads the manufacturing future of electric vehicles," Biden said in a statement released by the White House. "This announcement is just the latest in over $100 billion of investment this past year in American auto manufacturing to build electric vehicles and batteries."

The major GM investments were encouraged by state and local incentive packages GM received. After losing out on an $11.4 billion investment from Ford for EVs, Michigan lawmakers scrambled to put together a $1 billion economic development package to attract new investment. The GM proposal would use two-thirds of the initial money. Lawmakers have to sign off on allocating the money, which they are expected to do soon.

"That partnership is incredibly important, whether it's energy or incentive to put these jobs in Michigan, and have that growth in the economy," Reuss said. "The state recognizes how important that is to grow the employment and R&D capability and the manufacturing jobs here."

khall@detroitnews.com

Twitter:@bykaleahall 

Staff Writer Breana Noble contributed.