GM's Factory Shuffle Could Point to Big Electric Car Plans

gms factory shuffle could point to big electric car plans

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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  • DAC17 DAC17 on May 10, 2016

    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).

    • HotPotato HotPotato on May 11, 2016

      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.

  • 87 Morgan 87 Morgan on May 11, 2016

    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.

    • Bball40dtw Bball40dtw on May 11, 2016

      I agree that GM should shove that drivetrain in as many vehicles as possible. They should start with a CUV. Yesterday if possible.

  • Snickel Fritz I just bought a '97 JX 4WD 4AT, and though it's not quite roadworthy yet I am already in awe of it's simplicity and apparent ruggedness. What I am equally in awe of, is the scarcity of not only parts but correct information regarding anything on this platform. I'm going to do my best to get this little donkey back on it's feet, but I wouldn't suggest this as a project vehicle for anyone who doesn't already have several... and a big impressive shop with a full suite of fabrication/machining/welding equipment, and friends with complimentary skillsets, and extra money, and... you get the idea. If you don't, I urge you to read up on the options for replacing anything on these rigs. I didn't read enough before buying, and I have zero of the above suggested prerequisites... so I'm an idiot, don't listen to me. Go buy all of 'em!
  • Bryan Raab Davis I actually did use the P of D trope, but it was only gentle chiding, for I love old British cars of every sort.
  • ScarecrowRepair The 1907 Panic had several causes of increased demand for money:[list][*]The semi-annual shift of money between farms and cities (to buy for planting and selling harvests)[/*][*]Britain and Germany borrowing for their naval arms race[/*][*]San Francisco reconstruction borrowing after the 1906 earthquake and fire[/*][/list]Two things made it worse:[list][*]Idiotic bans on branch banking, which prevented urban, rural, and other state branches from shifting funds to match demands. This same problem made the Great Depression far worse. Canada, which allowed branch banking, had no bank failures; the US had 9000 failures.[/*][*]Idiotic reserve requirements left over from the Civil War which prevented banks from loaning money; they eventually started honoring IOUs illegally and started the recovery.[/*][/list]Been a while since I read up on it, so I may have some of the details wrong. But it was an amazing clusterfart which could have been avoided or at least tamed sooner if states and the feds hadn't been so ham handed.
  • FreedMike Maybe this explains all the “Idiots wrecking exotic cars” YouTube videos.
  • FreedMike Good article! And I salute the author for not using the classic “Lucas - prince of darkness” trope, well earned as it may be. We all know the rap on BL cars, but on the flip side, they’re apparently pretty easy to work on (at least that’s the impression I’ve picked up). On the other hand, check the panel fits on the driver’s and passenger’s doors. Clearly, BL wasn’t much concerned with things like structural integrity when it chopped the roof off a car designed as a coupe.