General Motors has announced an investment of $245 million US for its Orion Assembly plant in order to produce the Chevrolet Bolt electric compact crossover.
GM announced the Bolt would go into production after widespread public approval following the concept’s introduction at the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit in mid-January. A month later, at the Chicago Auto Show, the company announced the vehicle would go into production in 2016. It will likely bear a 2017 model year designation.
“Chevrolet believes electrification is a pillar of future transportation and needs to be affordable for a wider segment of customers,” said General Motors CEO Mary Barra at the concept vehicle’s introduction. “The Bolt EV concept demonstrates General Motors’ commitment to electrification and the capabilities of our advanced EV technology. We have made tremendous strides in technologies that make it easier and more affordable for Chevrolet customers to integrate an all-electric vehicle in their daily lives.”
The Orion facility currently builds the Chevrolet Sonic sub-compact hatchback and the Buick Verano luxury compact sedan, and will add 300 jobs to accommodate Bolt production.
“Orion Assembly is a breeding ground for manufacturing innovation,” said Cathy Clegg, GM North America vice president of Manufacturing and Labor Relations in a release about the announcement. “It serves as a model for how to engage the entire workforce at all levels to achieve success. The plant is up to the challenge of building this brand-new product, something it’s never seen before.”
Since its reopening following the 2008-09 economic crisis (when it was shuttered as part of the government bailout), Orion has received nearly $1 billion in investment. The investment is part of GM’s announced three-year $5.4 billion investment in US manufacturing (with a further $2.3 billion to be announced by year’s end).
“Orion is an example of what we can achieve when we work together,” said UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada, who leads the union’s GM Department. “Only through innovative problem solving were we going to see this plant succeed, and this new investment is proof of that. UAW-GM continue to show the world that when you involve both workers and management in the process, workers win, management wins and our communities win.”
Union and management worked together to re-open the plant in 2010, and employees are encouraged to offer solutions that positively impact operations. Recently, hourly, salaried and skilled trade workers together developed a process to address robotic paint applicator failures before they happen, and GM is applying the solution to other manufacturing sites with the anticipation that it will save millions in annual production costs.
The four-seat Bolt is a stylish crossover that takes full advantage of lightweight materials such as aluminum and carbon-fibre, as well as aerodynamic innovations, to extend driving range to around 320 km. It is also designed to accept fast charging to allow travellers to keep on their long-distance journeys with brief rest stops at fast-charging outlets.