General Motors' recent decision to halt production of the Chevrolet Bolt, despite the model's strong sales performance, has raised questions within the automotive industry. However, a swift reversal of that decision has GM eyeing a new, still-affordable Bolt, and the latest hints suggest that its production might be shifting to Fairfax, Kansas, instead of Michigan's Orion Assembly.
The United Auto Workers' (UAW) tentative agreement with GM, recently posted on the UAW's website, provides insights into the investment commitments secured during negotiations. Notably, the document includes a $391 million allocation for a “future electric vehicle” at the Fairfax Assembly plant in Kansas. Currently, the plant is responsible for manufacturing the Cadillac XT4 and Chevrolet Malibu.
While the UAW document does not specify the exact electric vehicle that could be produced at the Fairfax facility, insider sources informed Reuters that it is likely to be the next-generation Chevrolet Bolt.
The report elaborates on GM's contemplation of producing a lower-cost version of the Bolt electric utility vehicle in Fairfax by 2025. Additionally, the company is considering manufacturing premium electric vehicles for its Cadillac and Chevrolet brands, potentially including a purely electric performance model bearing the revered Corvette nameplate. According to anonymous sources cited in the story, the plan is to commence production at the Lansing facility in 2027.
These developments hold significance on multiple fronts. Firstly, they provide clarity regarding the future of the Fairfax Assembly plant, which employs over 2,000 workers. Previously, the plant's fate appeared uncertain, particularly as the Chevrolet Malibu faced financial challenges. During the peak of the chip shortage crisis caused by the pandemic, the plant experienced extended idle periods, rendering the news of potential EV production a positive development for the facility and its employees.
Secondly, the mention of an all-electric Corvette, even if it entails just one or multiple models carrying the Corvette branding, has sparked anticipation among enthusiasts. If realized, this “pure electric performance model” would mark the first time a “Corvette” is manufactured outside of the iconic Bowling Green, Kentucky factory since the early 1980s. GM, however, has not provided official confirmation regarding the production location of these vehicles.
It's worth noting that while UAW contracts secure investments in plant infrastructure, the specific models to be manufactured can be subject to change. GM has recently encountered challenges in scaling up the production of its Ultium electric vehicles, prompting the company to revise its electric plans and investment commitments. Despite a few challenging quarters, investor sentiment remains uncertain, though it may be more a reflection of GM's production capabilities than the concept of electric vehicles.
Nonetheless, this development signals a victory for the UAW, and it aligns with the incentives for U.S. EV production provided by the Inflation Reduction Act. By securing an electric future for a previously uncertain plant, the UAW has made significant progress, and this includes extending coverage to Ultium battery plant workers. The question of whether union labor would play a significant role in the electric vehicle future now seems to be gaining clarity amid ongoing UAW efforts.