Issue: Dec 2009


GM Invests $336 Million in Detroit-Hamtramck Plant to Build Chevrolet Volt



Expected to be first plant in the U.S. owned by a major automaker to produce an electric car

by John Larkin

General Motors will invest $336 million in the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant to begin production of the Chevrolet Volt electric car, with extended-range capabilities, in 2010.

This brings GM's combined Volt-related investments in Michigan to $700 million, covering eight facilities. Detroit-Hamtramck will be the final assembly location for the Volt, using tooling from Grand Blanc, lithium-ion batteries from GM's Brownstown Township battery pack manufacturing facility, camshafts and connecting rods from Bay City, and stampings and the Volt's 1.4L engine-generator from Flint.

"We expect the Detroit-Hamtramck plant will be the first facility in the U.S. owned by a major automaker to produce an electric car. It is the hub for the wheel that we began rolling in 2007 when the Volt debuted at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit," said Jon Lauckner, GM vice president of global product planning. "Since then, the field of challengers and partners has grown significantly. This competition will expedite the development of electric vehicle technology and infrastructure."

After the Volt's debut in January 2007, other automakers announced six plug-in hybrid or electric vehicles later that year, followed by 19 introductions in 2008 and five more this year.

In addition to GM's $700 million in Volt-related facility investments, there are the many suppliers, utility companies and organizations investing in Michigan and the U.S. to support Volt production and electric vehicle development. In August, the U.S. Department of Energy selected 45 companies, universities and organizations in 28 states for more than $2 billion in awards for electric drive and battery manufacturing and transportation electrification.

"With GM leading, electric vehicle development is creating entirely new industries. These include battery developers, builders of home and commercial charging stations, and power control and electric motor suppliers," Lauckner said. "These investments in the electric vehicle ecosystem are creating new jobs and strengthening Michigan's and America's long-term competitiveness."

To reduce cost and maximize flexible manufacturing techniques, some equipment for Volt production is being reused from other GM facilities and installed in the Detroit-Hamtramck plant's body shop. The Volt will be built on the existing assembly line at Detroit-Hamtramck. Assembly of Volt prototype vehicles will begin in the spring, with the start of regular production scheduled for late 2010.

Detroit-Hamtramck opened in 1985, and currently employs about 1,200 workers, including 1,100 hourly workers represented by UAW Local 22.

"This investment is great news for the workforce as it helps pave the way for the future and the electrification of the automobile," said Cal Rapson, vice president and director, UAW International Union.

The Volt is an electric vehicle with extended-range capability. It is designed to drive up to 40 miles on electricity without using gasoline or producing tailpipe emissions. When the Volt's lithium-ion battery is depleted of energy, an engine/generator seamlessly operates to extend the total driving range to about 300 miles before refueling or stopping to recharge the battery. Pricing has not been announced.

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