GM fast-tracks electric vehicle plans, starts hiring near former Lordstown plant

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Rear view of the new Lordstown Endurance electric truck, which was unveiled at a live event with the vice president on board. - Aaron Doster/Lordstown Motors/TNS

General Motors CEO Mary Barra said the company will bring new electric vehicles to market faster than anticipated as the automaker announced a major step forward Thursday in its self-driving car development.

GM is also making strides in hiring and calling back workers at two of its facilities.

GM said it has started hiring what will eventually be more than a thousand workers at its new EV battery plant near GM’s former Lordstown Assembly factory in northeast Ohio. GM will start calling back workers to Factory ZERO in Detroit and Hamtramck starting early next year as it converts the facility to build EVs.

GM has said it would bring at least 20 new EVs to market by 2023. It has shown two of those: the Cadillac Lyriq SUV, due to market in 2022, and the GMC Hummer EV pickup, hitting the market late next year.

During an earnings call with analysts Thursday, Barra said GM will be bringing EVs to market faster than it had initially anticipated, crediting its strategic partnerships and investments in technology for having allowed it to speed up product development. Barra said future EVs will cross all of GM’s brand beyond luxury to include high-volume cars too.

Hiring in Ohio

One of GM’s partnerships is with LG Chem in the joint venture Ultium Cells LLC.

The venture will mass-produce Ultium battery cells for electric vehicles and GM is building a 3 million square-foot plant for it that sits adjacent to GM’s former auto assembly plant near Lordstown, Ohio.

GM shuttered Lordstown Assembly, which had made the Chevrolet Cruze compact car, last year as part of a cost-cutting restructuring of the company. GM transferred most of the thousands of workers there to other GM facilities across the country. GM sold the facility to electric truck maker Lordstown Motors last year.

But GM said Ultium Cells will create 1,100 new jobs.

Job seekers can now start applying on the Ultium Cells LLC website. The plant will be hiring people to set up and launch battery cell manufacturing. The website lists various engineering jobs and purchasing, but GM said additional job openings will be posted as they become available.

On its website, Ultium said, “We need technology-savvy people to fill roles across our organization — manufacturing, administration, and more.”

GM and LG Chem have invested $2.3 billion in the Ultium Cells LLC facility, which will be about the size of 30 football fields and manufacture battery cells for the GMC HUMMER EV, Cadillac LYRIQ, Cruise Origin and others, GM said.

Factory ZERO workers recalled

At GM’s former Detroit-Hamtramck plant, now called Factory ZERO, GM said it will begin to recall workers early next year.

GM shut down the plant in February to invest $2.2 billion to retool it to make EVs. GM will build the GMC Hummer there starting next year. It will also manufacture the driverless Cruise Origin car and eventually several other yet-to-be announced EVs.

“Factory ZERO is not hiring at this time,” said GM spokesman Dan Flores. “Currently, we have 80 UAW-represented team members onsite helping with the renovations and construction.”

He told the Free Press in early 2021, GM will begin to call back, “small groups of our launch team, based on project needs.”

The streets of San Francisco

Also on Thursday, GM said the California Department of Motor Vehicles gave Cruise LLC the green light to test its autonomous vehicles without a safety driver on the streets of San Francisco.

Cruise is a self-driving car developer largely owned by GM, Honda Motor Co. and SoftBank. The permit allows Cruise to test five driverless Chevrolet Bolt-based vehicles on certain streets. Cruise is the fifth company to receive a driverless testing permit in California.

Barra told analysts getting the permission in San Francisco is especially critical to GM’s ability to advance its self-driving business.

“If you think about ride-sharing today, the opportunity for profitability is in dense urban environments,” Barra said. “So having the opportunity to test it there is a pathway to faster commercialization and profitability.”

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©2020 Detroit Free Press

Front view of the Lordstown Endurance electric truck, which was unveiled at a live event with the vice president on board. - Aaron Doster/Lordstown Motors/TNS
The new Lordstown Endurance electric truck, unveiled at a live event with the vice president on board. - Aaron Doster/Lordstown Motors/TNS