It’s no April’s Fool’s joke.
General Motors will resume production of the Chevrolet Bolt EV hatchback and larger Bolt EUV crossover on April 4 after a months-long shutdown, the longest-known production stoppage for a safety defect in company history.
The automaker told employees of Orion Assembly, the plant about 35 miles north of Detroit where the Bolt EV and EUV are built, that production would recommence after being halted in August as GM prioritized new batteries for recalled Bolts rather than supplying new ones for its factory.
The reopening comes as GM announced in January it’s investing $4 billion in Orion for production of the Ultium-powered Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra full-size pickups as well as Cruise autonomous vehicles in 2024. When fully up to speed, the plant could build 360,000 trucks annually.
Bolt output will continue as the plant is converted, but GM has not detailed the Bolt’s future. By then, a $30,000 Chevrolet Equinox EV is expected to be in showrooms, so the both the Bolt EV and EUV could be afterthoughts. Neither currently employ Ultium batteries.
GM recalled more than 140,000 Bolts to replace battery modules after a series of fires. The company also suspended retail sales of new Bolt vehicles. The moves came as The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recalled all Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles due to the risk of their high-voltage battery pack catching fire.
“We appreciate the patience customers have shown throughout the recall,” GM spokesman Dan Flores said in a statement. “We remain committed to Bolt EV and EUV and this decision will allow us to simultaneously replace battery modules and resume retail sales soon, which were strong before the recall.”
Recalls started in November 2020, and 18 Bolt battery fires have been reported worldwide and have resulted in minor injuries, but no deaths. The batteries, which are manufactured in a GM joint venture with battery supplier LG Energy Solution, have bene found to occasionally have a torn anode tab and folded separator, which lead to the fires. The recall has cost GM $2 billion, although LG Chem agreed to reimburse GM for the cost of the recall.
GM dealers are allowed to sell new Chevrolet Bolt EV and EUVs when they arrive, as long as they were built on or after April 4. Recalled Bolts that haven’t yet received module replacements or gone through diagnostic testing remain on a stop-sale order.
But the recall has blemished GM’s EV credibility as it launches its next generation EVs, powered by its proprietary Ultium batteries, which are not used in Chevrolet Bolts. GM plans to roll out 30 electric vehicles by 2025, including the Chevrolet Equinox EV, Chevrolet Silverado EV, GMC Sierra EV, Chevrolet Blazer EV, Cadillac Lyriq EV as well as the Hummer.
The company also plans to invest $2.6 billion to build a new Ultium cell plant near Lansing, Michigan. The plant is a joint venture with LG Energy, which GM already partners with on plants in Lordstown, Ohio and Spring Hill, Tennessee.