Sources: GM manufacturing revamp could signal faster lane-change to EVs

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2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV pre-production

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV pre-production

Less than a week after speaking out in favor of a national electric vehicle mandate, and in the shadow of Tesla reporting a profitable quarter, General Motors might be on the verge of announcing a radical change to its plans for future electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids in the U.S.

The automaker is anticipated to make a major business announcement concerning electric vehicles, mobility, and how its technology business evolves—with a potential spinoff of Cruise Automation and/or Maven—on Wednesday with its third-quarter financial report, according to multiple sources.

Such moves might coincide with a series of manufacturing-location and development changes in motion that put the automaker on a new path to electrify its fleet—to execute the sweeping “20 new EVs by 2023” plan for electrification announced last fall.

DON’T MISS: GM wants Trump administration to consider national electric-vehicle mandate

One part of the revamp is expected to concern GM’s Hamtramck plant, which currently builds the Volt and is extremely underused compared to the volume of vehicles it’s made in the past.

2019 Chevrolet Volt

2019 Chevrolet Volt

The other models currently built at that plant are the Buick LaCrosse, Cadillac CT6, and Chevrolet Impala—all models that were reportedly on the chopping block last year as part of a give-and-take negotiation with the UAW. Traditional large sedans such as those have struggled in the market in recent years.

CHECK OUT: GM to expand Chevy Bolt EV sales, bring battery production to US

The automaker could be simply revamping that plant to make more room for a long-anticipated crossover that would use the Voltec plug-in hybrid powertrain from the Chevrolet Volt. Current demand for the Volt has been rather low, compared even to the Toyota Prius Prime, which has a lower plug-in range, and GM has been cagey about the role of plug-in hybrids in its future product plan.

Demand for the Bolt EV, on the other hand, has been relatively strong, and GM announced plans to expand production at the plant where that product is made earlier this year. But sales are tracking down this year, and several upcoming compact electric-vehicle rivals arrive in the next six months, including the Hyundai Kona Electric, a longer-range version of the Nissan Leaf, and the much-anticipated $35,000 Standard Range version of the Tesla Model 3.

READ MORE: GM CEO Mary Barra hints at Bolt EV-based crossover SUV, details future electric vehicles

GM Electric Car Presentation

GM Electric Car Presentation

What GM CEO Mary Barra said last year may have set in motion what we’ll see this week. “Our mission for electrification is simple,” she said, at the Barclays 2017 Global Automotive Conference. “We are working to provide desirable, obtainable, and profitable vehicles that deliver a range of over 300 miles.”

The electric-vehicle strategy may be changing dramatically, as GM pushes ahead with a new electric-vehicle platform that allows larger vehicle footprints and family-sized crossovers. An all-new battery platform, announced around that same time, would complement the automaker’s plan to break the $100/kwh barrier for lithium-ion packs, allow a range of EVs at scale for China and the U.S. and, perhaps most importantly, for an automaker that is expected to report some dismal Q3 financials, turn that profit.

A GM spokesman contacted Monday evening denied the reports that Wednesday's call will include such substantial technology, mobility, and manufacturing announcements. We'll update this story as it evolves. 

 
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