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GM officially declares Detroit-Hamtramck its first all-EV plant, in the heart of Motor City

It was hardly a secret that Detroit-Hamtramck would be GM’s assembly plant for electric pickups and SUVs. But with the official announcement moments ago, the American auto industry made a big leap toward its EV future. GM’s storied Detroit-Hamtramck plant ­– where 4 million vehicles have been built over 35 years – from now on will produce nothing but pure battery-electric models of a size and shape most favored by American consumers.

Hometown Detroit auto workers at the plant, employees represented by UAW Local 22, will say farewell to internal-combustion engines and instead, apply their skills to assembling zero-emission vehicles.

GM’s first all-electric truck, built on a new all-electric architecture, will be a pickup with production scheduled to begin in late 2021. This will be followed soon after by the Origin, a self-driving people-mover unveiled by Cruise in San Francisco last week.

Mark Reuss, GM president – during a press event this morning at the plant with Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer – said there will be “multiple electric truck variants” built at Detroit-Hamtramck over the next few years. Repeat: not just one electric truck. Multiple.

Reuss declared:

“This investment helps ensure that Michigan will remain at the epicenter of the global automotive industry as we continue our journey to an electrified future.”

He elaborated:

Our offering won’t be just one pickup. This is architected to be scalable and news for multiple brands, with multiple variants, with multiple customers and will offer different ranges of performance at different price points to meet customers, wherever they are. If the customer wants a basic package we will have that. If the customer wants true off road capability and towing capability, we will have that. Our electric pickup will do everything that customers want a pick up to do, and much, much more.

Whether or not we’re the first on the market, I don’t know, but I am confident that we will be the best on the market for sure. And that’s just the beginning, we’ll be introducing multiple models a year as market responsive as anyone in this business can be. In fact, we will beat and be more agile than many that have shown things in the past, our electric vehicle program is unmatched in the industry in terms of our combination of advanced technology, flexibility, speed, and scale.

On the eve of the announcement, GM spokespersons declined to tell Electrek what brand or nameplate would be used for the battery-powered trucks. And they also refused to confirm that an electric Hummer was part of the company’s well-known goal to produce 20 new EVs globally by 2023. (They left that news to a Super Bowl ad coming this weekend.)

But the message they delivered was that the nearly 1,000 people currently making their living at Detroit-Hamtramck will some become EV converts with skin in the game. They will be a new breed of rank-and-file GM worker-ambassadors for made-in-Michigan electric cars.


The discontinued Chevy Volt was built at Detroit-Hamtramck

GM’s $2.2 billion investment “will support 2,200 good-paying manufacturing jobs,” when the plan is fully operational, according to the company’s announcement. And LG Chem batteries for those electric SUVs, trucks (and Cadillac EVs) will be arriving from GM’s multi-billion dollar battery gigafactory, just a three or so hour drive away in Lordstown, Ohio.

The Chevy Bolt, GM’s current electric offering, is made at the company’s Orion Assembly plant in Orion Township, Michigan. However, the gas-powered Chevy Sonic is also made there, where gas and electric powertrains are intermixed. But Detroit-Hamtramck will be GM’s first assembly plant fully-dedicated to electric vehicles.

The plant will be idled for several months starting in late February to begin its transformation.

Electrek’s Take

It appears that EVs are slowly becoming as American as baseball and apple pie.

When the Ford Mustang Mach-E was unveiled in Los Angeles in November, we said that the Mach-E was the first meat-and-potatoes EV for American heartland. That’s still true to a large degree, although some of the red-white-and-blue cred is undermined because the electric Mustang will be assembled in Cuautitlán Izcalli, Mexico. That is what it is – the reality of global manufacturing processes intended to reduce costs.

However, with the conversion of Detroit-Hamtramck to a pure EV facility, GM can lend its promised electric vehicles a big boost of hometown pride.

With the move, CEO Mary Barra also puts her reputation on the line. Her path to the leadership role at GM was partly based on her time as plant manager at Detroit-Hamtramck. Yes, she also made the tough decision to lay off workers there in December to prepare for the plant’s conversion to EVs.

But with the official announcement about the facility today, and a battery gigafactory in the works, GM begins to transform Detroit-Hamtramck for an electric future, with a growing workforce dedicated to EVs. The pieces are coming together.

Of course, how fast the company can shift the balance of its business from big, internal-combustion, gas-guzzling SUVs to electric offerings remains to be seen. In our chat with GM officials, the year 2025 was mentioned as a turning point. That’s forever away in the fast-moving EV world.

Now it’s up to Ms. Barra and Mr. Reuss to rally the troops to execute on its EV ambitions without delay.

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Avatar for Bradley Berman Bradley Berman

Bradley writes about electric cars, autonomous vehicles, smart homes, and other tech that’s transforming society. He contributes to The New York Times, SAE International, Via magazine, Popular Mechanics, MIT Technology Review, and others.