General Motors has picked a fifth plant to build its 2023 electric vehicles and it is in Mexico, which the United Auto Workers union calls “a slap in the face.”
GM has already declared it will make EVs at four locations in the United States and Canada.
But on Thursday, GM said it will invest more than $1 billion at its manufacturing complex in Ramos Arizpe, Coahuila, Mexico, for a new paint shop and innovative technology that will start operations in June 2021.
In a statement, GM said part of the initial investment is to prepare the site for “an expansion of the assembly and Global Propulsion Systems plants, to make Ramos Arizpe Complex the fifth GM manufacturing facility to produce electric vehicles.”
The other plants are: Spring Hill, Tennessee; Factory ZERO in Detroit and Hamtramck, Michigan; Orion Assembly in Orion Township, Michigan; and CAMI in Ingersoll, Ontario, Canada.
GM said it will also build batteries and electrical components at Ramos Arizpe starting later this year.
Save better, spend better: Money tips and advice delivered right to your inbox. Sign up for free here
Investment strategy: Can you become a millionaire retiree with just an IRA?
“We are really proud about contributing to GM’s vision of a future with zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion, by the production of electric vehicles,” said Francisco Garza, GM Mexico president and managing director, in a statement. “We are confident that future economic conditions will enable this investment to eventually grow the complex workforce in some operations from two to three shifts.”
The UAW issued a statement late Thursday slamming the news, calling GM’s decision “unseemly.”
“At a time when General Motors is asking for a significant investment by the U.S. government in subsidizing electric vehicles, this is a slap in the face for not only UAW members and their families but also for U.S. taxpayers and the American workforce,” said Terry Dittes, UAW vice president and director of the General Motors Department.
Dittes said GM cars made in Mexico are sold in the United States, therefore should be made here by American workers.
“That is why our nation is investing in these companies,” Dittes said. “Taxpayer money should not go to companies that utilize labor outside the U.S. while benefiting from American government subsidies. This is not the America any of us signed on for. Frankly, it is unseemly.”
Late Thursday, U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, reacted to GM’s decision in a statement: “Not one American dollar should support our own jobs being shipped off to Mexico — especially when we have the workers and the technology to manufacture the best vehicles of the future here at home. General Motors needs to reaffirm their commitment to working, American families.”
GM defends its decision
GM responded to the UAW’s statement by noting that its investment in U.S. factories will add union jobs.
“General Motors is committed to creating good-paying U.S. jobs as we transition to an all-electric future and our recent announcements are proof of that commitment,” said Dan Flores, GM spokesman. “In fact, we recently announced nearly 9,000 jobs and more than $9 billion in new electric vehicle or battery cell manufacturing facilities in Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee.”
But any new jobs at GM’s joint-venture battery plants in Lordstown, Ohio, and Spring Hill, Tennessee, may not translate to union jobs. The UAW would have to organize those and negotiate a separate contract with a joint venture.
GM has invested $2.2 billion to retool Factory ZERO, previously called Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly, to build EVs when that plant opens later this year. GM has said it will eventually employ 2,200 workers and make the GMC Hummer EV pickup, GMC Hummer EV SUV, Chevrolet Silverado electric pickup and the self-driving electric Cruise Origin.
At Orion, GM is investing $402 million to build Chevrolet Bolt EV, Chevrolet Bolt EUV and Cruise AV test vehicles. GM said that investment will support 1,100 jobs.
GM recently announced it will invest $2 billion at Spring Hill Assembly in Tennessee to build the Cadillac Lyriq EV SUV along side the internal combustion SUVs it presently builds. That investment will support 3,200 jobs, GM said.
GM is investing $800 million in CAMI to build the EV600 electric delivery truck later this year for GM’s electric light commercial truck startup BrightDrop.
Two electric SUVs for Mexico
GM presently makes the internal-combustion Chevrolet Equinox and Blazer SUVs, along with engines and transmissions, at Ramos Arizpe, where it employs 5,600 workers.
According to a Reuters report quoting Sam Fiorani, who tracks future vehicle production for AutoForecast Solutions, GM intends to build two Chevrolet electric SUVs at Ramos Arizpe starting in 2023.
Flores said GM is not announcing specifics related to the EV products being built at Ramos.
“I’m sure this investment will contribute to continue boosting Mexican manufacturing while bringing development to the region, the industry and the country,” said Garza, GM Mexican unit president, during a webcast announcement.
Follow Detroit Free Press reporter Jamie L. LaReau on Twitter @jlareauan.