Auto Industry

GM to invest $1-billion to build large EVs in Ingersoll, Ont.

Written by Norris McDonald

One of the difficulties in making a momentous announcement at 9:50 on a Friday night is that few people are paying attention. This is traditionally a time when bad, or controversial, news and information is either leaked or is made public by press release.

For instance, Canadian prime ministers traditionally announced their appointments to the Senate on Friday nights. And although it was likely by accident, it was Friday when the country learned it wasn’t going to get the number of doses of COVID-19 vaccine it was counting on. The reason for all this is because the weekend is here and whatever has happened Friday usually dies on the vine. Even in a lockdown, who cares about news?

But when the news is startlingly good, it can sometimes fly off into the ether without making the impact it would have if Canada’s news outlets were prepared to handle it. Saturday newspapers are printed and off to delivery. Their websites have skeleton staffs. TV newscasts are set in stone by 8 p.m. The kids in radio newsrooms might not understand the significance.

But the news here and now is that General Motors of Canada is going to spend a billion dollars – that’s “illion,” with a “b,” – to transform its assembly plant in Ingersoll, Ont., from automobiles to large electric delivery vehicles called the “BrightDrop EV600.”

It’s frankly astounding news. A year ago, automobile manufacturing in Ontario was on life support. Very little was happening and nothing was planned. And then, BOOM! GM announced it would build light trucks at Oshawa, plus other investments. Ford announced it would spend millions and millions to turn its Oakville plant into a battery EV plant. Now GM announces a billion-dollar investment in southwestern Ontario dependent, of course, on contributions from Ottawa and Queen’s Park. Plus, Ontario and the EV manufacturers are meeting about a supply chain of northern Ontario natural resources to support the electric car battery industry.

Jobs, jobs, jobs.

In a statement, GM said it wouldn’t comment on its plans until the union, Unifor, holds a ratification meeting with its Ingersoll members. But the company did issue a press release, which follows:

Subject to ratification of a tentative 2021 agreement reached with Unifor and confirmation of government support, General Motors plans to bring production of its recently announced BrightDrop electric light commercial vehicle, the EV600, to its CAMI manufacturing plant in Ingersoll.

The approximately $1-billion investment will support GM’s timing to deliver the vehicle in late 2021. The investment will enable GM to make CAMI into Canada’s first large-scale auto plant converted to produce electric delivery vehicles in Canada.

Work will begin immediately to transform the CAMI plant to support electric vehicle production. This will support jobs and transform work at the plant over the next two years as it moves from Chevrolet Equinox production to a new focus on the production of EV600s, which will serve the growing North American market for electric delivery solutions.

BrightDrop is an all-new business within GM offering commercial customers an ecosystem of connected and electrified products and services designed to improve the delivery of goods and services from the first to last kilometre. It aims to help B2B customers reduce cost of ownership, improve productivity and safety, and improve their carbon footprints and sustainability efforts.

Its initial products include the EP1 electric e-pallet, a software platform for fleet and asset management, and the EV600 light commercial vehicle that will bring the Ultium platform to commercial vehicles.

The new CAMI investments build upon other recent GM investments in Canada including the recently announced C$1.3 billion Oshawa Assembly Pickup investments; a C$109 million product and C$28 million Renewable Energy Cogeneration project at St. Catharines; a C$170 million investment in an after-market parts operation in Oshawa; expansion of GM’s Canadian Technology Centre including investments in the new 55-acre CTC McLaughlin Advanced Technology Track; and GM Canada’s ongoing work in Oshawa to manufacture 10 million face masks for the Government of Canada.

GM Canada is engaged in discussion with the Ontario and federal governments regarding its new investments and looks forward to working closely with Unifor following ratification of the tentative 2021 agreement.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is very good news indeed, particularly for late on a Friday.