Early in 2021, General Motors (GM) touted it was going to be all electric by 2035, and that, as of that date, it would no longer sell gasoline or diesel vehicles. Its transition to electric vehicle manufacture has not been smooth. Due to battery fires, GM has had to recall all of its 141,000 Bolts going back to the 2017 model, which is expected to cost the company $1.8 billion. Further, its fourth-quarter 2021 results are the weakest since the introduction of the Chevrolet Volt in December 2010 when the company delivered over 326 cars.
In the 4th quarter 2021, GM delivered only 26 all-electric vehicles in the United States—down almost 100 percent year-over-year. The number includes 25 Chevrolet Bolt EV/Bolt EUV and 1 GMC Hummer EV Pickup—the first one delivered in December. The low number of deliveries is due to the massive battery recall of the Bolt EV and Bolt EUV and its paused production since September 2021 extended through February as the company focuses on repairing the recalled vehicles. The lack of batteries might continue to limit the production of the Bolt EV/EUV in 2022, as the new battery modules are prioritized for the recalled vehicles.
Nevertheless, GM continues with its electric vehicle program with new electric vehicles being launched by the end of 2022 or early 2023. GM is focusing on the vehicles based on the all-new Ultium platform, including the GMC Hummer EV Pickup/GMC Hummer EV, the Cadillac Lyriq and the Chevrolet Silverado EV/GMC Sierra EV as well as the Brightdrop commercial vehicles.
GM to Manufacture Electric Pickups
GM will spend $7 billion to build a battery plant in Michigan and overhaul an existing factory outside Detroit to begin producing electric pickup trucks by 2024. The State of Michigan is providing GM with $824 million in economic incentives. GM has battery plants under construction in Ohio and Tennessee, and has retooled a plant in Detroit, where it recently started making an electric Hummer truck. It also plans to make electric vehicles at a plant in Ontario and at another in Mexico. GM’s new Michigan battery plant, like GM’s other battery plants, will be a joint venture between the automaker and LG Electric. It will be built on the site of an existing plant in Lansing, at a cost of $2.6 billion to be shared between GM and LG. All of these battery plant proposals are facing the prospects of much more expensive lithium and other battery materials that are raising costs worldwide.
GM will also invest $4 billion for a plant in Orion Township, Michigan, to make electric versions of its Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups. GM expects the Orion plant and the Detroit plant, known as Factory Zero, to eventually be able to make 600,000 electric full-size trucks a year. By the end of 2025, the company plans to have a total annual manufacturing capacity of one million electric vehicles. GM is also planning to spend $510 million to upgrade two vehicle plants in Lansing.
Despite GM’s plans to phase out production of gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035, Ford is ahead in electric vehicle sales. Ford has been selling an electric sport utility vehicle, the Mustang Mach E, for more than a year, and has taken in more than 200,000 reservations for the electric F-150 Lightning. Ford has overhauled a plant in Dearborn, Michigan and is set to begin making an electric version of its F-150 pickup this spring. Ford also plans to spend $11.4 billion to build two battery plants in Kentucky and a third battery plant and an electric-truck plant in Tennessee. Ford developed those models by using battery packs developed by a supplier, while GM decided to take extra time to develop its own modular battery packs that it believes will provide a cost advantage over competitors in the long run.
GM has had some setbacks on its road to electric vehicle production beginning with its recall of all its Chevy Bolts due to battery fires as well as having to pause production while it prioritizes fixing the recalled vehicles. Nevertheless, it has plans to electrify other models and to build battery factories in its development of its own battery packs. Its fourth quarter deliveries of electric vehicles was a paltry 26 in number, but it did include one Hummer. Clearly, the road to Biden’s 2030 goal of 50 percent of all new cars sold being electric vehicles will be expensive, but automakers will muddle through as they eye electric vehicle tax credits that Biden promises to extend and increase in his Build Back Better bill and whatever pieces of it survive the Senate. It remains to be seen if consumers will embrace the mandates of electrical vehicles coming from the government and corporations working hand in hand.