GM caps off a huge year for Canadian auto investment

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General Motors has added to a landmark year for Canada’s automotive sector by committing to a CAN$1 billion investment to manufacture an electric delivery van at its struggling CAMI manufacturing facility in Windsor Ont.

The deal was contingent on Unifor members at CAMI ratifying a new deal, which was approved by 91 per cent of members.

GM says the investment will make CAMI Canada’s first large-scale auto plant converted to produce electric delivery vehicles in Canada, and Robert Cattle, executive director of the CTMA, says there was no better location for a major automaker to make this kind of investment.

“This is extremely positive news and the southern Ontario corridor is ramping up to becoming an important player for EV [electric vehicle] production,” said Cattle. “We have established supply chains, a skilled workforce and world class companies within the Machine, Tool, Die, Mould and Automation industries that are looking for opportunities that these new EV’s will bring.”

The vehicle in question, GM’s BrightDrop EV600, will start coming off the line at CAMI in late 2021.

“With today’s ratification of our new 2021 agreement with Unifor at CAMI, we are charging ahead to make Canada the new manufacturing site for GM’s all-new BrightDrop EV600 fully-electric commercial delivery van,” said Scott Bell, president and managing director for GM Canada.

GM estimates that by 2025, the combined market opportunity for parcel, food delivery and reverse logistics will be well over US$850 billion. According to the World Economic Forum, demand for urban last-mile delivery, fueled by e-commerce, is expected to grow by 78 per cent by 2030, leading to a 36 per cent increase in delivery vehicles in the world’s top 100 cities. At the same time, this increase in demand is expected to cause delivery-related carbon emissions to rise by nearly one-third.

“GM Canada engineers in Markham and Oshawa were instrumental in the early stages of ideation and testing of this truly innovative solution for the massive global delivery industry. Just three days after GM’s unveil of this new business, we identified Canada as the manufacturing home for the EV600,” Bell said.

Work will begin immediately to transform the plant to support electric vehicle production, supporting jobs and transform work at the plant over the next two years from the Chevrolet Equinox—a crossover SUV with dwindling demand and a questionable future—to a new focus on the production of EV600s, which should yield years of mandates for the plant.    

“The stakes going into these negotiations were high, with the Equinox program ending, and there wasn’t a time during these difficult negotiations that we were not thinking about our members and their families, and we are grateful to all the members for their solidarity as we worked to ensure our plant is viable,” said Mike Van Boekel, Chair of the Master Bargaining Committee.

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.

BrightDrop was borne out of GM’s Global Innovation organization and joins the lineup of other recently launched Global Innovation startups, such as OnStar Insurance, OnStar Guardian and GM Defense. From a growth strategy standpoint, this new business will unlock areas of B2B, expansion of GM’s Ultium platform and software and service opportunities.

The pitch is that it will help businesses that use delivery vehicles reduce cost of ownership and improve 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.

EV600 features include:

  • Powered by the Ultium battery system, the EV600 is targeted to have an estimated range of up to 250 miles on a full charge.
  • Peak charge rate of up to 170 miles of EV range per hour via 120kW DC fast charging.
  • More than 600 cubic feet of cargo area.
  • Available at a GVWR of less than 10,000 pounds.
  • Loads of standard safety features with a suite of add-ons.
  • Cargo area security system with motion sensors to help keep cargo secure.
  • A 13.4-inch-diagonal, full-color infotainment screen.
  • Front sliding pocket doors, wide cabin walkways and a large auto-open cargo bulkhead door all contribute to optimize driver efficiency.
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