General Motors plans to convert its plant in Ramos Arizpe, Mexico to produce battery-electric vehicles, the automaker announced Thursday.
The facility will become the fifth in North America where GM will produce BEVs — though GM did not yet say what products will be built there. And, unlike four others in the U.S. and Canada, Ramos Arizpe will continue to produce gas-powered vehicles, as well.
GM CEO Mary Barra has laid out plans to switch entirely to battery-electric vehicles, phasing out internal combustion engines in all light duty models by 2035. The strategy is getting into gear this year with the launch of several new models, including the upgraded Chevrolet Bolt EV, and the all-new Bolt EUV and GMC Hummer pickup.
“I’m sure this investment will contribute to continue boosting Mexican manufacturing while bringing development to the region, the industry and the country,” said Francisco Garza, president of GM’s Mexican unit, during a Thursday webcast.
Union angered by move
Unsurprisingly, the UAW, which has previously expressed concerns about the potential loss of jobs the switch to EVs could bring, expressed outrage at the announcement.
“At a time when General Motors is asking for a significant investment by the U.S. government in subsidizing electric vehicles, this is a slap in the face for not only UAW members and their families but also for U.S. taxpayers and the American workforce,” said Terry Dittes, UAW vice president and director of the GM Department, in a statement.
“General Motors automobiles made in Mexico are sold in the United States and should be made right here, employing American workers. That is why our nation is investing in these companies. Taxpayer money should not go to companies that utilize labor outside the U.S. while benefiting from American government subsidies. This is not the America any of us signed on for. Frankly, it is unseemly.”
The timing of GM’s announcement could not have come a worse moment as union officials expressed interest and worry about securing additional union positions at GM’s new Ultium battery plant under construction in Lordstown, Ohio. Dittes expressed his belief that GM had a commitment to hire union workers as part of the shift to BEVs.
“These are important jobs and we continue to work with General Motors on the transition to electric vehicles. We believe that GM has a moral obligation to work with the UAW and the joint venture partner to make sure these are good paying union jobs like those of their brothers and sisters who make internal combustion engines,” he said in a statement.
GM’s electric past
GM launched its first long-range electric vehicle, the Chevrolet Bolt EV, in 2016, producing it at a facility in Orion Twp., Michigan that also built the subcompact, gas-powered Chevy Sonic. An expansion program will see the plant shift to BEVs exclusively.
GM also plans to convert a factory in Ontario to produce all-electric commercial vans for its new BrightDrop subsidiary. The aging Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant, originally scheduled to close in 2019, has gotten a new lease on life as Factory Zero. It will produce the Hummer pickup and a Hummer SUV, among other products. The old Saturn plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee is being converted into GM’s fourth BEV facility.
Additionally, Spring Hill will add a battery production line, GM’s second. Another, in suburban Detroit, will begin producing the automaker’s all-new Ultium batteries later this year.
Unclear what Ramos Arizpe will build
Ramos Arizpe is one of four plants GM operates in Mexico. The factory will continue producing two conventional, gas-powered models, the Chevrolet Equinox and Blazer, even after EV production begins in 2023.
GM has not said what products will go into the Mexican EV plant, nor what markets they will target. The automaker plans to launch 30 BEVs worldwide by 2025. Some will be offered globally, others are meant for specific regional markets. At the Shanghai Auto Show earlier this month GM and partners SAIC and Wuling revealed a convertible, the Hongguang Mini EV, specifically targeting the country’s buyers.
The automaker is expected to produce at least two BEVs in Ramos, according to AutoForecast Solutions. It is unclear if both would be badged for sale by General Motors, however.
The Detroit automaker has formed a joint venture with Honda in which it will supply its erstwhile competitor with two BEVs. Automotive News has reported that at least one of those will go into the Ramos plant, starting in 2023.
Michael Strong contributed to this report.