FLINT, Michigan (AP) — General Motors plans to invest more than $1 billion in two Flint, Michigan, manufacturing plants for the production of the next-generation internal combustion engine heavy-duty trucks.
Gerald Johnson, executive vice president, Global Manufacturing and Sustainability, said Monday that the company will build internal combustion vehicles throughout this decade, in addition to making electric vehicles.
GM has a goal of building only electric passenger vehicles in the United States by 2035.
The Detroit automaker reported a 38% year-over-year increase in heavy-duty pickup sales last year, with nearly 288,000 trucks sold.
GM will invest $788 million in the Flint assembly plant, with updates including a body shop building expansion, general assembly conveyor expansion, and new tooling and equipment.
The company will invest $233 million in the Flint metal center for new stamping dies to support production of its next-generation ICE heavy-duty trucks, as well as press refurbishments and new equipment.
Johnson said the reality of the auto industry now is that companies have to continue to invest in both internal combustion engines and electric vehicles, at least into the next decade. “I can’t tell you what happens beyond that. I don’t think anybody can,” Johnson said. “We can do both.”
But amid the euphoria of getting the $1 billion investment, workers are still a little concerned about what happens after the end of the decade as GM switches to electric passenger vehicles.
“It does raise concerns because we do build big trucks,” said Ryan Buchalski, president of the United Auto Workers local at the plant.
He’s happy that the plant’s future is secure for at least seven to 10 years, and said it will adapt to changes as it always has done. “We were building military vehicles at this plant at one time,” he said.
Assembly line worker Mike Lakies, who has been with GM for 29 years, is happy that the investment will let him stay at the plant until he retires, but he's concerned for those with lesser seniority. “They want to be here to get through 30 years,” he said.
He doesn't think the transition to electric vehicles will take place as fast as GM is expecting, because the infrastructure isn't ready yet to charge the vehicles. “It's their hope, but I don't think it's going to come out quite like that,” said Lakies.
UAW Vice President Mike Booth, who will lead negotiations with GM in contract talks that are scheduled to begin July 17, said the key to negotiations will be to make sure all workers have jobs in the transition to EVs.
“We’ve very clearly said the conversion from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles, it has to be a just transition,” Booth said. “We’re the ones that built the company, and we want to see ourselves moving it forward into the future.”
This latest investment brings GM’s U.S. manufacturing and parts distribution facility investment commitments to more than $30.5 billion since 2013.
AP Writer Michelle Chapman contributed from New York.
Tom Krisher, The Associated Press