General Motors is counting on Canada to play an important role in the future of its electric vehicles.
The automaker said Monday it would invest $2 billion in two plants there and the Canadian government would inject $259 million to help with the investment.
As part of this investment, GM will develop Canada’s first all-electric assembly plant at CAMI Assembly in Ingersoll, Ontario. GM will begin building commercial electric vans there for GM’s BrightDrop subsidiary in December.
GM has confirmed that it will also increase production at the Oshawa assembly plant in Ontario to include the Chevrolet Silverado light-duty gas-powered pickup in the coming months.
The factory is currently building the heavy version. GM will add a third shift to the plant and create 2,600 jobs as part of the expansion, GM said.
The Detroit Free Press first reported in July 2021 that there would be a light-duty pickup built in Oshawa and a third shift there.
“Oshawa will become GM’s only plant producing both heavy and light-duty pickups, which positions us very well to meet the strong demand for our pickups,” said Scott Bell, vice president of Chevrolet at GM.
GM currently builds its Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups at Flint Assembly. It builds the light-duty versions of the trucks at Fort Wayne Assembly in Indiana and at the Silao Assembly plant in Mexico.
The Government of Canada wanted to ensure that “the car of the future is built right here in Canada,” said federal Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne.
So the country is providing $259 million from its Strategic Innovation Fund to support GM’s investment, Champagne said. Canada has developed the Strategic Innovation Fund in 2017 to attract innovative companies to Canada by funding major projects.
“We are solidifying our position as the second-largest automotive jurisdiction in America,” Champagne said at a news conference at the Oshawa plant on Monday. “This $2 billion investment we got from GM will make a huge difference in Ontario. I can see the pride in the city. It’s also great news for the people of Ingersoll, because the plant there will be the first full-scale electric vehicle plant in Canada.
Last year, GM said it would invest $799 million to convert CAMI to produce the electric commercial delivery vans called EV600 for BrightDrop. The EV600, a long-range electric delivery van with 600 cubic feet of cargo space, is now called the Zevo 600. The smaller EV400 is now called the Zevo 400.
Production of the Zevo 600 will begin in December, GM said.
Future electric vehicle for Oshawa
The future employment of 2,600 people in Oshawa is a twist of fortune considering that a few years ago the plant was doomed to death.
In 2018, GM CEO Mary Barra said the automaker would permanently close five plants in North America and Oshawa was one of them.
But in 2020 contract negotiations between GM Canada and Unifor — the union that represents autoworkers in Canada — Oshawa was saved. GM needed the plant to help ramp up pickup production after GM halted all production for eight weeks amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
GM began building heavy-duty full-size pickups in Oshawa late last year.
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Bell hinted that Oshawa might get an electric vehicle to build, noting that GM said it would offer an all-electric lineup by 2035.
“It’s going to take us some time to get there, but the demand is there and the investment we’ve made here will get us there,” Bell said. “We’re committed to electrics and what we do in Canada will play a very big role in GM’s future, so I’m happy with what we’re doing here.”
Canada now crucial
In March, GM announced it would build a new plant in Quebec as part of a joint venture with South Korean chemical maker POSCO Chemical. The plant will be key to Michigan’s future electric vehicles.
GM and POSCO are working with the governments of Canada and Quebec to build the plant in Bécancour, Quebec, which is about halfway between Montreal and Quebec.
Construction, which has begun, will cost around $400 million. It will create 200 jobs once it is operational in 2024 and it will eventually supply crucial battery materials to several US battery factories, including one to be built in Lansing.
GM said it will have production capacity to build 1 million electric vehicles in North America by the end of 2025.
“Canada is now critical to the electric vehicle battery supply chain,” said Steve Carlisle, GM president for North America. “There will be a bit of Canada in every electric vehicle at GM.”
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