Once again, GM is delaying production of some of its new battery-electric vehicles, this time announcing that production of the Chevrolet Silverado EV and GMC Sierra EV pickups won’t start rolling out of the suburban Detroit Orion Assembly Plant until late 2025. But, as Headlight.News reports, limited numbers of Silverado EV commercial models are being produced at a second plant.
General Motors has pushed back until late 2025 the reopening of its Orion Assembly Plant, a development that will significantly delay the rollout of two new all-electric pickups, the Chevrolet Silverado EV and the GMC Sierra EV.
The delay is not due to the UAW strike. In a statement, the automaker said it is intended “to better manage capital investment while aligning with evolving EV demand.” The automaker also noted that it is making engineering revisions that should help lower costs and “increase the profitability of our products.”
This marks the latest delay in GM’s ambitious EV program which was intended to bring more than two dozen all-electric models to market by 2025.
A big bet, another delay
Currently, GM only offers a handful of battery-powered products, including the GMC Hummer EV and Cadillac Lyriq. The Caddy model was introduced last year but only recently came close to meeting initial production targets. As Headlight.News previously reported, a variety of snags have slowed GM’s EV campaign, including semiconductor shortages and other supply chain issues.
The automaker is betting big on the electric pickup segment, starting with the low-volume Hummer EV. It was expecting to get into the emerging mainstream with the Chevy Silverado EV and, less than a year later, adding GMC’s Sierra EV.
Silverado begins rollout at Factory Zero
The Chevrolet pickup is in production, albeit at low volume, rolling out of GM’s first EV-dedicated facility, Detroit-based Factory Zero. For now, production is limited to two commercial versions of the truck, the 3WT and 4WT trims. A retail model, the Silverado EV RST, will be added in the months ahead, spokesman Shad Balch said in a telephone interview.
A second shift will be added at Factory Zero next year, allowing for increased production of the Silverado EV, as well as for the launch of the GMC Sierra EV.
But volumes will be significantly more limited than were the Orion plant to start up as planned next year, he confirmed.
A pioneering plant
The Orion Assembly Plant helped usher GM into the EV market, launching production of the Chevrolet Bolt EV in 2016 and later adding the Bolt EUV. Both models have been pulled from the line-up, though GM CEO Mary Barra said over the summer that new versions are being developed. She did not offer a launch date.
The Orion plant, located about 45 minutes north of Detroit, is undergoing a $4 billion upgrade to ready it for full EV production. Previously, it had produced conventional gas-powered crossovers, as well as the two Bolt models.
Due to relatively low volumes, employment at Orion had shrunk sharply in recent years. Barra has indicated GM expects to triple the workforce once the factory reopens. For the time being, GM’s statement noted, “Represented employees at Orion will be offered other opportunities in Michigan, including positions at Factory ZERO Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly.”
A surge and then a slump?
GM’s reference to “evolving EV demand” is potentially significant considering the size of the all-electric fleet the automaker plans to bring to market.
EV sales surged sharply over the last few years, jumping from less than 1% of the total U.S. new vehicle market in 2019 to 5% in 2022. Demand surged again, to more than 8% early this year, but it has since been running flat, according to J.D. Power dealer sales tracking data.
That aligns with growing consumer concerns about both EV range and the lack of a robust public charging infrastructure, according to analysts with Guidehouse Insights and S&P Global Mobility.
“Evolving EV demand”
Notably, Ford has seen demand dwindle for its F-150 Lightning pickup after an initial surge in advance reservations last year.
Despite recent price cuts, Ford acknowledged that Lightning sales for the third quarter plunged 46% year-over-year, to 3,503. That’s well short of what the automaker had expected when it announced a major expansion of the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center where the truck is assembled. By the end of this year, the facility will have the capacity to roll out as many as 150,000 Lightnings annually.
A major test for the EV pickup segment, and the EV market as a whole, will come once Tesla begins delivering its own Cybertruck model. It’s begun shipping some from its Austin, Texas factory but has not confirmed when Cybertruck officially will go on sale.