General Motors plans to open a sprawling new electric vehicle assembly plant and tooling facility near Detroit that will become the facility’s primary U.S. factory, according to people familiar with the automaker’s plan.
The move could result in additional investments in Michigan’s small but growing automotive sector, which has seen a wave of automotive suppliers and manufacturing companies locate here, including other automakers.
The plant in Canton Township, near Detroit, is a new GM project. But a number of automotive officials familiar with GM say the automaker plans to further invest in Michigan and recently set up a point person for those investments. Jim Griffith, GM’s vice president of vehicle electrification, will serve as a liaison to the state and local communities.
A GM spokesman declined to comment on whether the company is opening an EV project in Canton Township. The Michigan Economic Development Corp. said it has no information that GM will open a new plant.
The new facility would use a portion of existing land that has been set aside for auto supplier reuse, the people familiar with the GM plan said. The new plant will employ approximately 800 people, and could be under construction by June, one of the people said.
The automaker has shuttered numerous plants as part of its strategy to shift toward electric and self-driving vehicles, including two in Michigan. In addition to the two in Wayne, which employs about 2,500 people, General Motors’ assets in Detroit’s historic Arturo Serrano site include its former Saturn Assembly Plant in nearby Arlington, which shut down in July and now is slated for demolition. A General Motors spokeswoman said the company is seeking a buyer for the property.
Late last year, GM announced a $200 million investment in a plant near Canton Township to develop rechargeable batteries.
The new Canton Township facility, if it opens as expected, would be the automaker’s biggest EV investment in the United States. The company has not made public whether it is changing its planned production of a smaller version of the Chevy Bolt EV, an electric car that has been criticized for its lackluster driving range.
In addition to building the cars and batteries, GM plans to make an EV-related component for the propulsion system, the people familiar with the project said. The parts would be based on the Bolt’s chassis and include a transmission shaft designed to draw energy from regenerative braking, people familiar with the project said.
GM has a base of suppliers for lithium ion batteries, including South Korea’s LG Chem and Germany’s Siemens. But its Michigan suppliers are largely U.S.-based and include quality manufacturers and other firms that build components, such as window frames and door panels, that go into the Bolt.
About 2,000 people work in Michigan in the electric vehicle industry, according to the Michigan Economic Development Corp. Of those, about 1,800 are people directly working at electric car suppliers. About 300 supply workers directly.
In Michigan, more than 1,000 people work directly at companies that make electric vehicle battery cells, according to the state. Other suppliers employ hundreds of people, including those who work in designing vehicle batteries, according to industry officials. The state expects this number to grow as companies add workers to help develop electric vehicles.
The electric vehicle news has been positive for some auto suppliers in Michigan, particularly in Van Buren County, a long manufacturing community in western Michigan that includes Canton Township.
Several of the new electric vehicle suppliers are located near the Republic Metals factory complex, which shut down in 2017.