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EVs, batteries could draw bulk of GM's US$7b pledge to invest in the US

Detroit

A NEW family of electric vehicles, an all-electric pickup truck and an advanced battery system could draw much of the US$7 billion that General Motors Co has pledged to invest in the United States as part of contract talks with the United Auto Workers.

The carmaker and the union were continuing talks late on Monday to resolve a strike by 48,000 hourly workers that shut down GM's highly profitable US operations.

GM said on Saturday that it would make investments in eight facilities in four states, but did not specify timing, location or products other than the electric pickup and a battery cell plant.

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Much of that investment is likely to be earmarked for the production of electric vehicles at two Michigan plants and battery cells in Ohio, sources said.

GM plans to begin building at least five new electric vehicles in the United States by 2023: two for Cadillac, one for Buick and two for Chevrolet, including a replacement for the Bolt EV. Sources said all of those vehicles are likely to be assembled at GM's Orion Township plant north of Detroit.

GM is also expected to update plants in Michigan, Tennessee and Missouri to build redesigned versions of its mid-size pickups and cross-overs, according to a GM source. The company said that it will invest in "additional new vehicle and propulsion programmes", but said nothing about opening new plants.

"With as much excess capacity as GM still has, the company won't be opening any new plants for the foreseeable future," said AutoForecast Solutions vice-president Sam Fiorani.

GM has said it plans to introduce a stable of electric vehicles by 2023, but has not provided details. Sources have said that those vehicles will feature an advanced battery system and a new vehicle structure that is flexible and modular, to accommodate different vehicle types and sizes.

Over the past three years, GM has spent an average US$8.45 billion a year on capital expenditures. Most of that investment was made in North America, another GM source said.

The US$7 billion investment pledged to the UAW works out to less than US$2 billion a year over the four-year life of the proposed contract.

Reuters last week disclosed that GM plans to introduce a full-size electric pickup in 2022, citing officials familiar with the company's plans.

On Monday, a person familiar with GM's offer to the UAW said the company could produce the electric truck at the Detroit-Hamtramck plant that now has no future assignment.

GM could also build an electric vehicle battery plant near its shuttered assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio. REUTERS