ORION TOWNSHIP, MI—A General Motors Co. manufacturing plant in Metro Detroit that was idled during the Detroit automaker’s federally induced bankruptcy is now one of the keys to GM’s future, reports The Detroit News. Orion Assembly is one of two plants where GM is investing $100 million in total to retool for Cruise AV production. The other is the Brownstown battery assembly plant, where roof modules for the Cruise AV are built.
The Detroit automaker is among those leading the charge into driverless, emission-free transportation, promising to build the industry’s first production-ready, dedicated autonomous vehicle next year. And GM has placed its all-electric and autonomous vehicles in the hands of American auto workers at Orion Assembly plant, a low-cost production center for GM’s smallest cars.
Members of United Auto Workers Local 5960 have been building GM’s long-range battery-electric Chevrolet Bolt EV at the plant since 2016. The small EV—though still not in high demand as consumers cling to gas-powered SUVs and crossovers—symbolizes GM’s claim to lead a global transition to zero-emissions mobility.
The Bolt provides the platform for GM’s autonomous test vehicles built at Orion. And the compact crossover is the vessel for GM’s production-ready Cruise AV, the driverless car with no steering wheel or pedals that the Detroit automaker plans to deliver next year in a yet-to-be-named city.
Other GM car plants in the United States aren’t getting similar investments. GM recently told employees at its Lordstown plant in northeast Ohio that the plant will cut back to one shift later this year because of declining sales for its only vehicle, the Chevrolet Cruze. The Detroit-Hamtramck plant — which builds the Buick LaCrosse, Cadillac CT6, Chevrolet Impala and plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt — idled for several weeks at the end of last year after it moved to one shift earlier in 2017.