By on May 10, 2016

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

Something electric could be brewing at General Motors, and we’re not talking about just the Chevrolet Bolt.

John Rosevear at the Motley Fool has an interesting take on what the future holds for Orion Assembly (the Michigan facility tapped to produce the Bolt this fall), and why GM seems to be keeping other models away from the plant.

Yesterday, we brought you news of the Buick Verano’s impending death, but the manufacturing space the luxury compact would leave behind is also interesting. With the Verano (likely) gone from Orion after 2017, the plant would hold only the Chevrolet Sonic and Bolt.

A small, yet-unnamed Cadillac model was due to be produced at Orion within a few years, until GM kiboshed that plan in April and moved its production to Fairfax Assembly in Kansas City.

“That doesn’t make sense,” Rosevear writes, “unless GM is planning to move something else into the Orion factory.”

While recent developments imply that GM has something special in mind for Orion, there’s no hint from the automaker that any new small car models are on the way, electric or otherwise.

Analysts are predicting between 30,000 and 80,000 Bolts sold in its first year — a wide range, for sure, but far less than the 400,000 Model 3 reservations Tesla has to work through. If the utility-minded Bolt proves a success, and EVs steadily gain market share, GM could diversify its electric offerings to battle a growing number of competitors, including Ford.

It could do that, but only if it had space to build more models on the same architecture. And that’s where Orion’s spare capacity enters the picture again.

Rosevear speculates that a new EV model from GM could be a halo car for Buick, though that seems to be the opposite direction of where the crossover-infatuated brand is heading. Buick’s global chief Duncan Aldred said in the past that he didn’t want low-volume models in the lineup, but viewpoints can change.

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29 Comments on “GM’s Factory Shuffle Could Point to Big Electric Car Plans...”

  • avatar

    So this is speculation? Not much of a story if it revolves around the speculation of some random individual and not hard facts.
    But sure, I’ll join in, maybe GM needs more space to build its fullsize trucks and SUVs, that’s an extremely important segment for GM and the availability of certain trims is tight.

    One would think they would tread very lightly about any future EV plans until the Bolt gets to consumers. Unless Volt sales are acceptable for the Bolt they would be stupid to continue developing EVs until the Bolt gets several sales months under its belt.

    • 0 avatar

      If GM really wanted to build more trucks they could have reopened Janesville. They are fine selling as many as they can build at inflated prices.

    • 0 avatar

      “So this is speculation? Not much of a story if it revolves around the speculation of some random individual and not hard facts.”

      It may be speculation, Hummer, but it does appear to be based on at least two pieces of hard fact: A) The Buick Verano is on the way out and B) The compact Caddy is NOT going to that plant. I could add C) The plant is certainly not geared to assemble full-sized or even mid-sized pickup trucks. That doesn’t leave a whole lot of options.

      One logical conclusion is the author’s own; that GM intends to convert the plant over to EVs. It certainly makes sense as you would want any battery-powered or motor-driven vehicles built as closely together as possible to streamline the supply chain. The fact that similarly-sized ICEVs are getting moved away means that size alone is not a factor for utilization but an electric drivetrain may be. And they certainly can’t get conservative as the Bolt already risks irrelevancy when placed beside Tesla’s Model III. They don’t dare wait to see how well the Bolt sells before at least starting the process on a larger, perhaps sportier model with even longer range.

      The big picture seems to agree with the author far more than with you, Hummer. I would expect to hear about an all-electric sedan or crossover in the works about the time the Bolt hits the market.

  • avatar

    Any EV that is not a Tesla going forward is doomed to fail. Tesla is hotter than prius was to the hybrid class. It is the IT EV.

    • 0 avatar

      It is only the “it” EV because it is so expensive. Once the masses are able to buy the fabled low cost model, there will be no “it” to the Tesla. And I am still not so sure that this isn’t just a gimmick and a ponzi scheme. Since this thing is wholly financed by taxpayer dollars and “refundable” deposits (yeah right), this has all the makings of fraud.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        “Since this thing is wholly financed by taxpayer dollars…”

        Please explain. Aside from the corporate welfare that all mfrs receive, how is Tesla different?

        • 0 avatar
          heavy handle

          He’s just following orders (?)

          Every article about the Bolt must have some reference to Tesla’s “taxpayer dollars.”

          …because GM isn’t the uncontested champion of burning through taxpayer-funded monies, right?

          It’s all a diversion from GM fanboys. Don’t ever mention that Tesla paid-back their government loan, in advance, with interest though, because that kinda breaks the spell.

    • 0 avatar

      I disagree. However, I *do* believe that they’ve now created a price ceiling,
      As well as range and charging infrastructure targets that entrants will have to meet going forward.

      I say that because I’d own a leaf today if it had 200 mile range, even if it were just a “starter ev”.

    • 0 avatar

      Don’t forget… GM had the “IT” EV when they produced the EV1 20 years ago….I guess it was a mistake for them to not keep going forward with it.

  • avatar

    begs the questions is orion too new or too updated to close a portion? or would they be moving bolt and sonic production elsewhere if that were to happen?

  • avatar

    And now to the subject of what Taxpayer Motors could be doing here.

    We have to remember that the VaporVolt has not been a sales success. It hasn’t had a track record of selling 2k vehicles per month – often well under this and when sales do rise above 1k a month, that is because of huge fleet sales.

    So, for Taxpayer Motors to dare even contemplate selling 30K of the VaporBolt is ludicrous. They will barely be able to move 10-12k which would make this slightly more successful than the Cadihack XLAX and less successful than the failed VaporVolt program. And I can guarantee that by 6 months out, Taxpayer Motors will be putting huge incentives on the VaporBolt to move it.

  • avatar

    If any of these morons make more $$ than me, I’m in the wrong profession. This is just about as transparent as it can get.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    It is now futile to release a new EV with <200 miles range.

    It is also futile to release a 200+ range EV without a nationwide charging infrastructure.

    Tesla is way ahead on both points. The Bolt will be a fine car, I'm sure, but it'll always be on a fairly short leash – except in the Pacific NorthWest states.

    Yeah, I get it that 90% of driving is done within 40 miles of home (or whatever; I had a Leaf), but that isn't really what people want.

    • 0 avatar

      Here in Austin, I see a shitload of non-Tesla EVs. In Central Austin, anyways.

    • 0 avatar

      There won’t be any major EV release with sub 200 mile range. It may cut it close, but Tesla has already set the standard.

      Half of the reason for the god [email protected] delay of EV’s is the fact that OEM’s have been sitting on their hands for a SAE plug standard that works with quick charge / modern EV’s. It sounds stupid but that has been a road block. No one wants to tool up right away. Tesla has adapters, etc. I have heard the typical red tape excuses for a few years, now.

      The real underlying reason is that there isn’t much money to be made in EV’s. If Elon can’t do it, how in the hell is a large scale, efficient manufacturer supposed to?

      Answer: build the god [email protected] thing in mexico with a globalized value stream. Now the new Ford plant makes a little more sense.

      • 0 avatar

        I figured that plat was going to be Focus/C-Max replacement/Model E EV.

        Then what are they going to build in Cuautitlán, the EcoSport?

        • 0 avatar

          Who the hell knows? Probably export volume to South America, expansion capacity for an existing platform or what you said (variation of the EcoSport). It’s so limited that it would have to be a high yield, low volume vehicle.

          • 0 avatar

            I think Ford is going to have to bring the EcoSport here. Not in current two star Bangladeshi Crash Test form though. They’re going to need to update that third world dumpster.

  • avatar

    No one will ever convince me that Tesla will be anything other than a car for the 5%. There is no technology or assembly process improvement that Tesla can do that the other companies can’t. And the big one…all the other manufacturers need to sell electric cars to allow them to meet the CAFE standards and sell their way more profitable trucks. Hence, they will sell them for less than a full margin. Almost impossible to beat that for Tesla.

    Remember how popular Coors and Yuengling beers were, when you couldn’t get them?? Same thing here on a bigger scale.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      If I understand your reasoning, you’re saying that Tesla will be forced to keep prices high because their mfg costs will be in line with everyone else?

      Hopefully, this won’t be the case.

      Their drivetrain is almost certainly cheaper to produce than an ICE. The key – of course – is keeping battery costs low via the Gigafactory.

      The Model S is already the volume EV leader in the industry, and the Model 3 seems likely to take that leadership role to another level. But volume won’t help if they can’t cover costs.

      If the base price of the Model 3 creeps up to $40-50k, I’ll back out of my reservation. Lots of people will still buy the car, but it will likely be the 5% you refer to. But in the long run, the company’s fortunes ride on making money with high-volume, mid-range cars, which a $50k car is not.

      • 0 avatar

        SCE, the $37k Bolt won’t include CCS or any other type of quick charge. That could push its price over $40k, so that may not be an option.

        • 0 avatar

          They damn well better include CCS as standard. A 200-mile EV can replace an ICE car, but only if you can top it off along the way from LA to San Francisco or Vegas or whatever. Even if they’re foolish enough to make it optional, I imagine it will be more like $300 than $3000, judging from how they did it with the Spark EV.

  • avatar

    Actually, the logic is two-fold. First, I don’t believe that Tesla can do the basic manufacturing any cheaper than the other companies. More important, the others can sell their electric cars at a loss, since they offset that loss with bigger profits from big trucks and sport-utes (which they can sell more of due to the EV mileage offsets under CAFE).

    • 0 avatar

      But Tesla can sell emissions/mileage credits to other automakers, pocketing their share of the cash others make by producing Sublubbers or F-1Shiftys or whatever, no?

      I recently read a piece that argued Tesla’s long-term play isn’t to make money from their own cars, but from selling electric chassis, Supercharger network access, batteries, motors, controllers, consulting services etc. to other automakers. Interesting argument given how far behind some of the others are – Ford’s efforts have been half-hearted, GM’s inconsistent, and FCA’s non-existent.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    I would be delighted to see the Volt drivetrain make its way into more offerings by GM. From the test market I am aware of, my business partner and his 60k mile volt, it works flawlessly.

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