Matthew is a correspondent at Heatmap. Previously he was an economics reporter at Grid, where he covered macroeconomics and energy, and a business reporter at BuzzFeed News, where he covered finance. He has written for The New York Times, the Guardian, Barron's, and New York Magazine. Read MoreRead More
Automakers Are Quietly Slowing Down Their Plans for Electric Pickups
Did American car companies misread what EV buyers want?
General Motors is pushing back plans to convert its Orion assembly plant in Lake Orion, Michigan. Instead of completing its transition from producing electric cars to electric pickup trucks by 2024, the updated factory won’t be ready till late 2025. In a statement, a spokesperson for GM told me the delay was “to better manage capital investment while aligning with evolving EV demand.”
It’s another indication that there’s a mismatch between the types of electric vehicles that Americans want to buy and the types of EVs — or, really, electric trucks — that American automakers, with ample encouragement and subsidies, want to produce.
Early last year, General Motors announced that it would invest $4 billion into the plant, which was being used for the production of the soon-to-be cancelled-but-much-loved Chevy Bolt, the electric sedan. But earlier this year, GM clarified that it was going to halt Bolt construction as part of its transition to selling electric trucks. The company said it planned to have capacity to build some 600,000 trucks annually once the Orion plant was retooled for truck production. The plant currently employs over 1,200 workers, and the company’s chief executive said on an earnings call in April that eventually employment would triple as the plant reached its full potential to churn out electric Chevy Silverados and GMC Sierras.
“We’ll need this capacity because our trucks more than measure up to our customers’ expectation, and we’ll demonstrate that work and EV range are not mutually exclusive terms for Chevrolet and GMC trucks. So stay tuned,” Barra said on the April earnings call.
But as Kevin Williams has detailed for Heatmap, American EV buyers might not be that interested in electric trucks — and that lack of enthusiasm seems to finally be showing up on factory floors. Yahoo Finance reported Monday that Ford was cutting a shift at the assembly plant that produces the F-150 Lightning, the electric version of its top-selling vehicle, which has seen falling demand recently.
The shutting down of Bolt production at the end of the year and the delay of truck production until late 2025 could leave workers in the lurch, but the GM spokesperson told me the move is unrelated to the ongoing strike by United Auto Workers and that Orion workers will be offered other opportunities in Michigan.