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article imageGM's Cruise to spend $2.2 billion on Detroit-Hamtramck EV plant

By Ken Hanly     Jan 27, 2020 in Technology
Detroit - Just last week Cruise, a subsidiary of GM that is developing a self-driving car, unveiled its first self-driving vehicle with no steering wheel or pedals. The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dan Amann promised to reveal production details in days to come.
The Origin
The Origin is shown in the appended photo. It does not look like an ordinary vehicle inside as described in a recent Verge article: "Inside are two bench seats facing each other, a pair of screens on either end... and nothing else. The absence of all the stuff you expect to see when climbing into a vehicle is jarring. No steering wheel, no pedals, no gear shift, no cockpit to speak of, no obvious way for a human to take control should anything go wrong. There’s a new car smell, but it’s not unpleasant. It’s almost like cucumber-infused water."
A recent article notes: "The announcement of the Origin was a significant milestone, representing the first purpose-built autonomous vehicle without traditional controls to eventually go into mass production. The vehicle was designed with help from Honda, which is a major investor in GM subsidiary Cruise. The driverless electric shuttle has the same dimensions as a small crossover, and it’s designed to be shared as part of a ride-hailing service. "
Production will take place at the GM Detroit-Hamtramck plant
GM has announced it will spend $2.2 billion to retrofit the plant so as to produce autonomous and electric vehicles. As well as the Origin, the plant will produce all-electric SUV's and pickup trucks. By 2023 GM hopes to be marketing 2020 different nameplates of EVs.
The first EV an electric truck is to go into production in 2021. Soon after it is expected the Origin, a shared, electric self-driving vehicle unveiled in San Francisco should be in production as well. The Detroit Hamtramck plant will be the first plant dedicated fully to production of EVs.
The Hamtramck plant had been slated to close last year
The new plant is a big win for GM, the GM union, and the area. Added to the $2.2 billion investment are 2,200 jobs. The deal was reached after a tense six week strike by the United Auto Workers union in the fall of 2019. GM originally planned on closing the plant in June of 2019. The Detroit plant employs about 900 people and makes four vehicles including that Chevrolet Impala and Cadillac CT6. The plant will be idled for several months beginning at the end of February for the retrofit.
Detroit may make a comeback in the automobile business. Glenn Stevens executive director of MICHauto and the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce vice president of automotive and mobility initiatives said it made perfect sense to build the Origin in Detroit: "We put the world on wheels. This is a logical place for a company to design and engineer and build a vehicle that’s quite revolutionary."
Tax incentives also were a factor in the GM decision though the amount was not disclosed. GM also recently announced a decision to invest $2.3 in a joint venture with LG Chem of South Korea to build a new battery cell facility at Lordstown Ohio. This facility could provide batteries for the Detroit plant.
GM needs to play catch up in the EV field
The last new GM electric vehicle was the Chevy Bolt in 2016. GM wants to enter the luxury EV market and plans to make Cadillac its leading EV brand. However that market is crowded with Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, and BMW all having introduced models last year to compete with the Tesla Model S and X.
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