This is set to be a big day for General Motors, at least on the EV front.
The widely anticipated GMC Hummer, which will be offered in both pickup and SUV forms, will make its official global debut online Tuesday 8:00 PM EDT. That preview will follow what the automaker has billed as a “major U.S. manufacturing investment announcement” earlier in the day.
Though Detroit automaker has yet to offer any hints as to what that investment will be, the news is expected to focus on the conversion of the automaker’s Spring Hill, Tennessee assembly plant to produce another all-electric SUV, the Cadillac Lyriq.
GM CEO and Chairman Mary Barra is fond of saying that the company is on “a path to an all-electric future,” and has plans in place to roll out at least 20 battery-electric vehicles, or BEVs, by 2023. The plan has been slow to get underway. Currently, GM offers only one long-range model in North America, the Chevrolet Bolt EV. But the coming year will see the pace quickly accelerate.
The largest of the Detroit automakers already has confirmed some of the new products coming to market over the next 18 months. These include the two versions of the Hummer, a stretched version of the Chevy hatchback to be dubbed the Bolt EUV, and the Lyriq, the new Caddy BEV.
What was described as a “concept” version of the luxury crossover was unveiled during an August webinar, GM’s North American President Steve Carlisle describing it as “a very big moment for Cadillac and General Motors,” and “a cornerstone upon which we’re going to build the future.”
Specific details about the production model were sparse. The Lyriq, GM did confirm, will utilize the new BEV3 architecture and the new Ultium battery technology the automaker is developing as part of a joint venture with South Korea’s LG Chem – those batteries to be produced at a new plant in Ohio.
The BEV3 platform is capable of front-, rear- or all-wheel-drive configurations, with as much as 1,000 horsepower in three-motor versions. Lyriq is expected to be offered in RWD and AWD and likely start with a base version of around 400 horsepower, while range is expected to have a base package of around 300 miles, according to various sources.
Where GM would build Lyriq was a matter of uncertainty. The automaker is planning to set up numerous EV plants. It already builds the Bolt at a facility in the Detroit suburb of Orion Township. The Hummer is all but certain to go into the newly renamed Plant Zero in Detroit, using a heavy-duty version of the BEV3 architecture – which will be shared with another all-electric pickup to be marketed by Chevrolet.
The missing link, where Lyriq will go, appears likely to be answered today: Spring Hill, according to Jeff Schuster, senior analyst with LMC Automotive. He expects other GM BEVs to go into that plant, as well.
The Spring Hill factory has had a bumpy history. It originally was opened to handle production for GM’s initially promising but ultimately ill-fated Saturn brand. After Saturn was abandoned following the automaker’s emergence from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the factory was shuttered. But it was brought back to life and underwent a major upgrade as GM’s fortunes improved, post-Great Depression.
Even so, there had been questions, of late, about its long-term viability. Today’s announcement will position Spring Hill as one of the fundamental elements in GM’s metamorphosis into an EV manufacturer.
The nearly 8-million-square-foot plant currently produces two other Cadillac crossovers, the XT5 and XT6 models, as well as SUVs for GMC and the Australian Holden brand. It is likely that they will remain in the facility which will be tooled up to allow maximum flexibility. The Orion Twp. plant was an example, for several years producing both gas and electric vehicles for Chevrolet.
The biggest complex in the entire GM North American manufacturing network, Spring Hill also currently produces four internal combustion engines for the light truck side of the company’s product line-up.
With at least 20 BEV models coming by 2023 – and products planned for all four U.S. brands, including Buick – it is uncertain whether the conversion of the Spring Hill plant will give the automaker enough North American EV capacity. Not all of those products will be sold in the U.S., however. GM has indicated some will target overseas markets, notably China which is now the world’s largest outlet for electric vehicles. The company recently launched production of a micro-BEV in partnership with affiliate Wuling that has become China’s best-selling electric vehicle, topping even Tesla.