Line workers work on the chassis of full-size General Motors pickup trucks at the Flint Assembly plant on June 12, 2019 in Flint, Michigan.
JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images
Flint, Mich. — General Motors plans to invest nearly $1 billion in four US plants to support production of components for electric vehicles as well as its next generation of V-8 engines, signaling gas-powered trucks and performance cars are here for the foreseeable future.
The $918 million investment, which GM announced Friday, is despite the automaker’s plans to exclusively offer all-electric consumer vehicles by 2035. It’s the latest example of legacy automakers such as GM having to balance their current lineup of vehicles with emerging EVs.
“Our commitment is to an all-EV future, no doubt about it,” Gerald Johnson, global head of GM’s manufacturing, told reporters after the announcement. “We know that has a horizon and between here and there, there are a lot of internal combustion engine customers that we don’t want to lose.”
A majority of the investment — $579 million — will go towards preparing GM’s Flint Engine Operations plant in Michigan for the automaker’s sixth-generation family of small-block V-8 gas engines.
The engines are used in some of the automaker’s most highly profitable products, such as its full-size pickup trucks and SUVs. They’ve also been used in some Cadillac and Chevrolet performance cars.
GM said work at the Flint facility will begin immediately, signaling the next-generation V-8 engines are on the horizon. The automaker declined to elaborate on timing, performance and other details of the engines. The last new family of V-8 engines came about in 2013.
The remaining investments will occur at other parts operations in Michigan, Ohio and New York for gas-powered parts such as camshafts and manifolds as well as castings to support future EVs, according to GM.
Like the company, leaders with the United Auto Workers union echoed the need for investments in both traditional operations and EVs.
“Is electric going to come tomorrow? Is it 10 years away? You still need the internal combustion until the technology is perfected for the EVs,” newly elected UAW Vice President Mike Booth told CNBC.
UAW President Ray Curry, who is in a runoff election to keep his position, said the union welcomes investment in both areas as the industry and its workers transition.
“We want to have the opportunity to make sure existing operations are shored up and that new operations that come online have the capital investment to move forward,” he said.
The union, which is scheduled to bargain with GM later this year, wants emerging EV work to be classified the same as their traditional engine and powertrain jobs. The company, in contrast, has expressed a need for much of the work to be in a lower pay bracket in order to be competitive.
Booth, who leads the UAW’s GM unit, called Friday’s investment a “big deal” but said it has no impact on the upcoming negotiations.