GM's Electric Vehicle Future Arrives Early in Detroit-Hamtramck

GM's first non-internal combustion engine vehicle assembly plant will be in the form of 35-year-old plant straddling the Detroit-Hamtramck border thanks in part to a $2.27 billion state tax credit. Electric pickups, SUVs, and AVs will be produced.

3 minute read

January 30, 2020, 9:00 AM PST

By Irvin Dawid

Electric vehicle

Tada Images /

"GM President Mark Reuss declared 'The future is here and now' in a conference room at the plant Monday [Jan. 27]," reports Mark Phelan, auto critic and columnist for the Detroit Free Press.

He promised the plant will build electric pickups, SUVs and self-driving shuttles “beginning in late 2021” in a rollout that will include “multiple brands” and the introduction of ”multiple models a year.”

Plant saved

In addition to being GM's first all-electric vehicle assembly plant, also noteworthy is that the automaker chose to "invest $2.2 billion in a plant the company could have just as easily bulldozed," notes Phelan. The Detroit-Hamtramck (ham-TRAM-ik) plant was one of five GM plants slated for closure resulting from consumer preference for SUVs over cars.

Phelan refers to the 300-acre assembly plant site as "Poletown," which a November 2018 post on the GM plant closures referenced.

John Gallagher [of Detroit Free Press] followed up on news of the plant closures with an article about the controversial history of the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant, which displaced the historic neighborhood of Poletown when it was constructed. [Listen here on NPR.]

Economic incentives

"In a statement, a G.M. spokesman said the investments announced on Monday were made possible by a state tax credit from the Michigan Economic Growth Authority," reports 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who participated in the event, acknowledged the state's financial help, and the payoff in jobs for the greater community.

“We are proud to be here today, supporting GM in bringing 2,200 good-paying manufacturing jobs for our auto workers and getting Hamtramck back online, helping to bring their vision of an all-electric future to life.” 

Batteries from Lordstown, Ohio

Chokshi noted that GM's investment in its electric future has also benefitted another Midwest community affected by those five assembly plant closures.

As part of an existing joint venture, G.M. and South Korea’s LG Chem have invested $2.3 billion in a separate plant near Lordstown, Ohio, which will make the battery cells that will power the electric vehicles made at the Detroit-Hamtramck plant, the company said. Executives have said that the venture, in the same area where G.M. shut down a plant last year, would create more than 1,100 jobs, with a groundbreaking expected later this year.

Uncertain future?

Phelan, the auto critic, expressed caution on the plant's future.

Success is far from certain. It depends on GM’s ability to develop great electric-powered pickups, SUVs and autonomous shuttles, and the American public’s willingness to buy them in significant numbers.

He added that "GM’s executives, designers and engineers [will need to] create electric vehicles that excite buyers and answer questions about driving range and charging time."

Volt to Hummer

Finally, Phelan advised against bringing back the Hummer, albeit one the runs on battery power. However, Reuss "dropped a broad hint" that it will be included in the lineup. Perhaps that's only fitting, as the plant manufactured GM's first modern EV, the Chevy Volt, which like most of the cars produced by Detroit's Big Three automakers, will be discontinued for the larger sport and crossover utility vehicles.

Monday, January 27, 2020 in Detroit Free Press

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