General Motors continues its push toward an electric future by investing $300 million in a metro Detroit assembly plant to build a new Chevrolet battery-electric vehicle. The new investment also means 400 new jobs at the site.
The project is part of a broader, $1.8 billion U.S. investment program, CEO Mary Barra revealed Friday morning. The announcement comes just two days after President Donald Trump fired the latest in a series of broadsides at the automaker over its plan to close four U.S plants, including two assembly lines.
“We are excited to bring these jobs and this investment to the U.S.,” Barra said in prepared remarks.
Barra declined to discuss the details of a phone conversation she had with Trump Sunday, allowing only that the president “has an agenda about job creation.”
During his visit to Ohio on Wednesday, Trump specifically spoke out about the closure of the Lordstown plant that had been producing the Chevy Cruze, one of six slow-selling models GM is abandoning.
(GM declined offer to keep Lordstown open. Click Here for the story.)
She also noted of the approximately 2,800 workers being affected by the plant closures in the U.S., 1,100 have already found new work at other GM plants, while 500 are “waiting to be assigned” to new jobs. The remaining workers, she said, are eligible to simply retire.
Barra, during a conversation with reporters at the Orion plant on Friday showed no sign that she might reverse the cutbacks announced last November, stressing that “We believe in a strong manufacturing base” where plants are fully utilized.
That said, the CEO tried to avoid directly criticizing Trump, among other things crediting the revised version of the NAFTA agreement, now referred to as the USMCA, for helping make it possible to build a new electric vehicle at the Orion plant.
“We originally planned to produce this vehicle outside the U.S.,” Barra said during her speech. Barra, who is the first female CEO of a major carmaker, has been radically transforming the automaker since being named CEO five years ago.
(Click Here for more about Trump smacking GM with new Lordstown tweet.)
She has dropped weak models and closed under-utilized plants. Barra also has pulled out of unprofitable markets such as Russia and India and even sold off GM’s European subsidiary, Opel/Vauxhall, to PSA Group.
But perhaps her most dramatic move is to put the company on what she has repeatedly called “a path to an all-electric future.” The carmaker already sells the compact Chevrolet Bolt EV, a challenger to the Tesla Model 3. The company has announced plans to have 20 all-electric models in production by 2023.
In January, it said it would next launch a battery-electric SUV to be sold by Cadillac. It is set to debut in the “2020-ish” timeframe, according to Caddy President Steve Carlisle. The luxury brand plans to add a number of other battery-electric vehicles over the course of the coming decade, Carlisle noted earlier this month.
Barra declined to provide details about the new Chevrolet BEV to be built at the Orion plant, but spokesman Pat Morrissey offered a hint by noting the planned, $300 million investment will be completed “over the next two to three years.”
(Lordstown plant manufacturers last Chevy Cruze. Click Here for the story.)
Meanwhile, sources at GM hinted that Orion will likely produce other battery-cars in the years ahead. That’s a major development for a plant that many thought could be the next to be shuttered by GM, the facility currently struggling to maintain even a single steady shift of production.