By on December 12, 2018

Image: GM

Two senators in Ohio, home to the unfortunate Lordstown Assembly plant, want answers from General Motors. Following the automaker’s announcement that it will withdraw the plant’s sole product — the Chevrolet Cruze — in March of 2019, leaving the factory’s remaining 1,500 workers out of a job, politicians on both sides of the border want to know what GM’s plans for electric and autonomous mobility mean for their constituents.

If GM’s truly planning on springing a wave of electric vehicles on American buyers, Congress wants assurances that American workers will build them.

The two senators, Republican Rob Portman and Democrat Sherrod Brown, made their wishes clear in a letter to GM, demanding to hear back no later than December 21st, Automotive News reports.

One of the vehicles culled by GM’s restructuring plan is the Chevy Volt, built at Detroit-Hamtramck, alongside the equally doomed Cadillac CT6, Buick LaCrosse, and Chevrolet Impala. The Volt is a symbolic car. As the nation’s first “range-extended electric vehicle,” it served as the technologically advanced face of the post-bankruptcy GM and proof that the nation’s oft-derided auto industry could crank out something capable of trouncing the latest from Europe and Japan.

And yet buyers aren’t all that hot for it. Certainly, GM isn’t, either. This means the Orion Assembly-built Chevy Bolt will soon be the automaker’s only EV, and only plug-in vehicle of any kind. Portman and Brown’s letter demands to know GM’s plans for the electric vehicles it claims are in development. Will they be SUVs and crossovers? Where will they be built? The senators want GM to promise that U.S. workers, not Mexican or Korean ones, will assemble those clean and green products.

There’s quite a bit of fact-finding in the letter. The duo also requested that GM provide estimates on the number of supplier jobs that would be lost if Lordstown closes for good. Last week, GM CEO Mary Barra said Lordstown’s fate would be decided during 2019 UAW contract talks, adding that she’s keeping an “open mind” about it.

That said, the plant’s future isn’t looking good. GM officials have told Congress that prepping Lordstown to handle a new vehicle, presumably an electric one, would take one to two years, with other officials stating that this isn’t likely to happen.

[Image: General Motors]

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59 Comments on “Ohio Senators Want to Know GM’s EV Plans, Demand American Production...”


  • avatar
    FOG

    Who do these Senators think they are, Acosta?

    I am always amazed by the arrogance of people who don’t work for a living.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      And if they didn’t go to bat for this, they’d be accused of “not working for a living” as well. They’re screwed either way. They need to look like they’re at least trying.

      • 0 avatar
        FOG

        Good point FM. I just think they must show some dipolmacy. Senators have become convinced that they are the top of org chart and talk to others as if we work for them. They aren’t in a position to DEMAND anything. If I were GM I would put states with that mentality at the bottom of my list because they will only continue to demand more. Ohio just became a high maintenance girlfriend.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          FOG, with GM it is different because of the bailouts, handouts and nationalization done in 2008/2009.

          The US taxpayers are making their demands on GM known through their Reps and Senators.

          Most people understand that the precedence had been set when GM was put on indefinite life support in 2008/2009, but no one seriously thought that another bailout, handout and nationalization would not be in the cards at some point in the future, like 10 years later, as forecast by many of ttac’s B&B.

          Now we’re at that point. GM is forced to restructure or will go belly-up again. Not enough people are buying the GM offerings because they do not represent good value for the money.

          Yet I am optimistic that with President Trump in office he will shame GM into closing jobs in other countries and bringing them to the US. Maybe different kind of GM jobs, not assembly or go-fer jobs.

          That said, I don’t know if less than two years remaining is enough time to do it and straighten out this mess by shaking out the US auto industry.

          • 0 avatar
            FOG

            @Highdeserrcat,

            It isn’t the fact that they want a commitment, but that they expect GM to divulge strategic information. They want to force GM to do things in Ohio, not just the U.S.

            I also feel that ten years later GM has paid for their bailout. They built thousands of Volts because the government demanded it. Then the government bought Nissan Leafs instead. Just one example of a government demand that made no sense and only cost GM money.

            GM has to make wise decisions, not political ones. If the senators are really doing their job they would be selling the benefits to GM of staying in Ohio. If all the viable states are demanding they might as well not demand anything.

            The only criteria they should follow is to avoid already wealthy states like New York and California. Sadly those states will be able to put the most pressure on them and give them the most graft to get them into those states.

          • 0 avatar
            Peter Gazis

            highdesertcat

            As part of the agreement, GM shut down large parts of its business.(Pontiac, Saturn, Hummer) Including many of the factories and Dealerships that suported those brands.
            GM still has a few underutilized factories in the U.S.(Lansing Grand River, Orion Lakes Michigan, Bowling Green Kentucky, Fairfax Kansas) If the politicians and unions want to pressure the company. It may decide to close thise factories as well.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            FOG & Peter Gazis, of course you are both right. There are several different ways of looking at and assessing the GM vs Ohio situation.

            I’m still optimistic that jobs will be brought back to the US, from elsewhere. They may be different kind of automtoive jobs, maybe more specialized like CAM/CAD/CAE, or maybe more Robotics-related jobs with an eye on future efficiency.

            But the Senators and Representatives of Ohio would not be doing their jobs if they did not pursue this course of action with GM. Even if that means divulging strategic information on GM’s part.

            And maybe, just maybe, if we, the people knew, in part, what GM is planning to commit to, maybe we, the people would buy more of their products. After all, look at the success story that is Fiatsler, with their successful line of vehicles.

            Didn’t we read where Sergio laid out his plans, both strategic and tactical for Fiatsler, and didn’t Americans respond by buying more of those cars. They bought enough cars and trucks to get Fiatsler noticed in a good way.

            Come to think of it, I bought my wife a new 2012 Grand Cherokee. Moi!? Yeah, unlikely, but it did happen.

          • 0 avatar
            geozinger

            @HDC, as much crow as I’m eating these days concerning Sergio and his successes, I wouldn’t exactly praise the guy for his plans. His five year plans were released and either changed significantly or ignored. Frankly, if the deal in 2009 hadn’t included Jeep, FCA would not exist.

            Had FCA not acquired Jeep, there would not be any profits of any kind. The people at Fiat recognized that Jeep was a global brand that could be expanded upon. And Dodge Truck was the money maker in the US. FCA launched two cars and failed miserably, relying only on three rather old (but well updated) large cars to carry forward. Outside of the Pacifica, there’s not a lot new in FCA land.

            In fact, now that Sergio has passed, I worry about the largely American management that is being put into place. Will they have the global experience to keep the Jeep gravy train running? Dodge Truck won’t play much outside of North America. We may be living in interesting times.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            geozinger, that’s the way it is with the auto industry; things are constantly changing, plans made become obsolete when they are implemented when the public’s tastes have changed.

            Forecasting the weather is a lot easier than forecasting the motoring public’s wants.

            And, yes, we are living in very interesting times in the auto industry. The Senators want to ensure that Ohio plays an active role in GM’s future manufacturing, with emphasis on keeping EVs available in case the public should suddenly be enamored to buy them.

            But I’m also willing to bet that they will settle for any manufacturing jobs GM decides to throw in the direction of Ohio.

          • 0 avatar
            JD-Shifty

            But GM paid the money back. debt paid.

          • 0 avatar
            HotPotato

            “Nationalization”
            I do not thing that word means what you think it means. (Otherwise the profits would be accruing to taxpayers, not stockholders.)

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            HotPotato, Google “Nationalization of GM 2008” and read up on the many results to understand what it means to me.

        • 0 avatar
          civicjohn

          FM, I guess I agree with you, they would take flack for doing nothing, so they might as well jump on the soapbox Barra handed them. I’m sure their constituents are currently getting blasted to remind them how much their senators are working for them.

          Unfortunately, the other 49 states will soon forget this story because of the 24 hour news cycle.

          But this whole situation has nothing to point at that anything will be different from GM moving forward.Why didn’t they come out with some grand plans other than vaporware EVs? Someone on here posted a Wall St. axiom – “no company has ever cut their way to success”.

        • 0 avatar
          George B

          FOG, I agree regarding tone. Portman and Brown should be asking what they can do that would help GM manufacture a product in Ohio at a profit. GM isn’t going to manufacture cars at a loss, but maybe they could manufacture trucks at a profit if some regulatory impediments were removed.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      That’s contractual…

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      Same old, same old. These guys were like the band on the Titanic, playing loudly while the ship sank.

      Forty years ago, when the steel mills were being shuttered, they shouted from the sidelines, but were able to accomplish nothing.

      Whatever happens, these guys will be the flies on the wall; it sounds like more of an issue between GM and the UAW.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    They’re talking with the wrong company. Tesla is more likely to build EVs at Lordstown than GM is.

    • 0 avatar
      cognoscenti

      Musk is desperately trying to keep the Tesla house of cards upright by building a factory in China. His remarks regarding taking over a GM facility are a ruse – he could not build something at Lordstown if they gave it to him.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    Given the assumption that an BEV is simpler to build than an ICE vehicle, there should be no cost problem for GM to build BEVs in the US or Canada. The real excess cost of BEVs is all in the battery pack which is driven by material costs. Materials costs are driven by world commodity costs and not where the battery packs are assembled The costs of batteries need to come down at least another 50% before BEVs become mainstream second vehicles for those with access to off street charging.

  • avatar

    The EV craze will soon subsize, and the hype around them will evaporate. The fact is the only people that buy EVs are the socially conscious rich, which is Tesla’s main customers. I suggest GM spends their funds improving their mediocre product line.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt51

      Or, just let GM die in peace.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Get ready to eat crow…

      “…GM will release 20 new all-electric vehicles by 2023, two of which will arrive in showrooms in the next 6 months. According to a press release accompanying the announcement, this score of EVs will be propelled by electric systems featuring either batteries or fuel cells.”

    • 0 avatar

      Right. That must be why every car manufacturer is retooling their entire line to move to an EV dominated lineup… Tesla’s main customers are wealthy because the car is expensive, there are hoards of people standing by for sub $35k EVs.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        “hoards of people standing by for sub $35k EV”

        I very much doubt this, and after all $35K is still very expensive especially to those driving crapmobiles with either negative equity or little resale value. If we want to talk the new “EV people’s car” we’re sub $20K. Won’t be allowed to happen in USDM.

        • 0 avatar
          SCE to AUX

          Average transaction price for cars is now $35,359. There is no need to shoot for sub-$20k.

          https://mediaroom.kbb.com/2018-08-01-Demand-Quickly-Backing-Away-from-Cars-Pushing-Average-New-Car-Transaction-Prices-Up-for-July-2018-According-to-Kelley-Blue-Book

      • 0 avatar

        The issue is the Tesla just builds more interesting cars than GM. Under Barra’s direction GM is resorting to the blandness of the 90s. Their vehicles are extremely dull.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      @akear: Every claim in your statement is incorrect.

    • 0 avatar

      An analysis in Autoextremist’s “On The Table” section a couple of weeks ago spells it out quite clearly…

      Economics. ICEs are simply more expensive to design and build.

      Despite the current conundrum over cobalt, the consensus is that improvements in battery and charging technology will lead to a tipping point, sooner rather than later, where ICE’s current cost advantages simply evaporate.

      And when even the Chevy Bolt can go zero to 60 in 6.5 seconds and handle and brake well, what exactly is there that will make an ICE a better choice in the future besides nostalgia?

      Same reason the stick shift is evaporating. The technological disadvantages of automatics have been overcome. Only reason to have a stick now is the fun factor.

      And my wife and I only drove stick-shift vehicles for years. But the performance advantage has long disappeared.

      If NASCAR would simply develop some courage, they could take one of their series, I’d just start at the top with the Cup series, and change it to all-electric in 2020-2021. Let RoushFenway/RCR/Hendrick/Gibbs/Penske work out the technology bugs.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        The automatic transmission overcame technical disadvantages decades ago yet the stick was still offered on most models through the 2000s. I argue it is the absurd certification costs plus the low take rate which is dooming the manual transmission in USDM. What we’re witnessing now is a command economy dictate: you will make this product, you will make X amount by Y, and we don’t care about your cost. FCA lost $14,000 on every 500e it was *forced* to produce, other EVs we know ran at a loss to the mfg such as Tesla. The only way a tipping point naturally emerges is if the costs are reduced, technology improved, and R&D diverted away from ICE thereby making it the more expensive option to profit on. We aren’t seeing that, we are seeing Politburo style edicts by various authorities around the world. What will actually happen is transportation will significantly rise in cost overall and will squeeze out those below a certain threshold, further exacerbating the divide of rich and poor. This is all a feature, not a bug.

        “Marchionne said he hoped to sell the minimum number of 500e cars possible. “I hope you don’t buy it because every time I sell one it costs me $14,000,” he said to the audience at the Brookings Institution about the 500e. “I’m honest enough to tell you that.””

        https://www.reuters.com/article/chrsyelr-ceo-evs/fiat-chrysler-ceo-please-dont-buy-fiat-500e-electric-car-idUSL1N0O71MS20140521

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        Agreed on all points except the NASCAR part. In Formula-E, drivers actually switch cars when the battery expires. High speeds = exceptionally high power draw, and recharge times are not race-worthy. The physics just aren’t there yet.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        “And when even the Chevy Bolt can go zero to 60 in 6.5 seconds and handle and brake well”

        Handling well is subjective here. For those of us still ponying up for Miatas, Hot Hatches, and the like often with manual transmissions…The Bolt andles like a pig.

        Of my 2 Fords, The Bolt is closer in size to my Fiesta ST, yet closer in weight to my F150. Yes, it is down low but that is still a ton of weight to get to change directions quickly.

        Electrics certainly have advantages, but don’t try to sell them on their “handling merits” to those of us left in the world that drive decent handling cars. Unless your metric for performance is 1/4 mile time then they aren’t performance machines.

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          @Art Vandely: “but don’t try to sell them on their “handling merits” to those of us left in the world that drive decent handling cars”

          Guess what, some of them do handle better than your “decent handling cars”. A Model 3 Performance, especially an aftermarket modified version, can hold it’s own against Boxsters and M3’s on a track. The Taycan should be even better.

          https://jalopnik.com/tesla-model-3-performance-disqualified-from-global-time-1830379550

          https://www.teslarati.com/tesla-model-3-professional-driver-time-attack-race/

          https://electrek.co/2018/12/12/tesla-model-3-performance-laguna-seca-production-ev-record/

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        Budda-Boom, the problem with the EV is that it’s still a poor value unless gasoline prices are exceptionally high. In terms of utility, an EV competes against used cars that are nice enough to drive around town, but that you wouldn’t trust for long drives on the highway. At some price a large percentage of drivers would like an EV, but that price is low.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          George B, out here in the desolate reaches of the American Southwest, range anxiety and recharging times are the biggest obstacles to EV-acceptance and ownership.

          A friend of mine actually does own a Volt, in addition to his F150 and her Camry but I cannot recall when I ever saw either one of them drive the Volt. It is always him driving them around in his F150, or her making Avon deliveries in her Camry.

          And that’s what wrong with trying to keep up with the Joneses, or appearances, or looking progressive, or whatever.

          But at least he can say he actually owns a Volt.

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            I took a look at the corner of New Mexico where one of my businesses is based. On the app I use to locate charge stations and you’re right, it’s really bare. Nothing in Hobbs or Roswell. I think I could make it work if I lived in Hobbs, but I’d need home charging and probably a Model 3 Long Range.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            mcs, the option which many EV fans in my location are choosing is the Plug-in Hybrid.

            Pure EVs are a hard sell. I could have gotten my brother’s Leaf for scratch when he found it impractical to use in Manhattan, NYC, for a number of reasons I outlined over the years.

            At this juncture in my life, a pure EV might work for me when my ’89 Camry V6 goes to its final reward in car-heaven. A pure EV would take its place as the local-in-town grocery-getter and the weekly 30-mile roundtrip to the Commissary at the air force base.

            For longer out-of-town trips we’d still have to borrow or rent another vehicle. That’s doable for us because we spend so much time away from home where we have limo service or rentals through the concierge.

            I’m seriously considering an EV for the short hops.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    Lordstown Assembly: Home of Vega, Cavalier, Cobalt, and labor unrest. Yup, that is the plant we gotta keep open….!

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Don’t forget the cause of most of that unrest. GM went out and hired (on purpose) a bunch of people with bachelors degrees to assemble cars. They thought it might be a magic bullet on quality.

      Guess what – those college grads were bored out of their minds and did mischievous things like throw empty soda cans into open spaces in the body.

    • 0 avatar

      The optics would be good for the General, especially in an area that hasn’t seen good times in 50 years.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      PDan, what you mention was part of the problem. The major issue was the fact that the company demanded the assembly lines be sped up and (IIRC) mandatory overtime rules. The line workers couldn’t keep up with the pace set by the company.

      FWIW, it wasn’t just that particular plant that had an issue with bored workers. I seem to remember Brian Bosworth, who worked at one of the car plants in college, joked about putting empty soda cans or bottles in the cavities of cars on their way down the assembly line. Thought it was really funny, actually.

      I can also remember seeing a magazine article showing a restorer working on a 1964.5 Ford Mustang. Not surprisingly, he found where line workers had left their trash in the door of the car he was restoring.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        What irritates me is how GM spent so long searching for some sort of magic fix for its issues. Just like the NUMMI joint venture where they thought Toyota just had some “secret sauce” that they needed to pour on their product and everything would magically be fixed.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        I remember that Brian Bosworth interview. He also said they would do more than throw their random trash in cavities. I remember him talking about other workers who would tie a lug nut on a piece of fishing line then hang it in some location that will be inaccessible once the car is completed.

        • 0 avatar
          cognoscenti

          When I worked on a vehicle production line in the late 80’s, I recall fellow assemblers who had access cavalierly bragging of deliberately dropping tools into the mechanism of the line itself, to cause it to break down so they could get a paid break on the job, or go home early.

          We also frequently had water fights in and around the cars (to be fair, it was a hot factory with no air conditioning on the floor), and on more than one occasion vehicle components were sabotaged just to exact revenge on the next team for some prior prank. For example, use a razor blade to cut a hole in the exposed hydraulic line of the convertible top, and the next team who had to put the top down would be sprayed with hydraulic fluid when they pushed the button to retract the top. Yes, this kind of thing actually happened. I recall at the time that there was general animosity towards management/supervisors and especially any college-educated QC types. I doubt that any of that kind of BS would be tolerated in this day and age.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      Lordstown…We make VW Westmoreland look like a great idea!

  • avatar
    Garrett

    The Volt’s problem was never the technology. It’s actually a very creative approach.

    The problem was the car they wrapped around it. I couldn’t actually sit upright in the back seat.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Likewise. I followed the Volt from the first concept.

      It looked great on paper, and I desperately wanted one. It also drove nicely.and had fantastic NVH.

      But I met my wife and started having kids between the time the car was announced and when it made it to a Chevy Dealer Near Me.

      Suddenly that missing 5th set was a big deal: that seat is really useful with one kid and way more useful with three kids.

      We kept our Prius.

      Like the old joke in trade-a-plane: I’ve screwed out of my Volt; I have too many kids.

      Ultimately, I’m happy with my life choices!

      But, yeah, the Volt is a car for empty nesters.

      Alas, interesting cars still need daily-utility to survive in the marketplace.

  • avatar
    gasser

    I’m hoping that all these stoners and jerks are enjoying their jobless benefits as this former Ford family drives Honda and Hyundai now.
    As to GM, if they took the bail out, they owe us something. The U.S. government was stupid to not demand seats on the Board of Directors in the terms of the loan guarantees. Next time a “too big to fail” company teeters, let us remember that gratitude is not a word spoken by CEOs, and spend the cash on easing the hurt of the failure, not on a bailout.


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