GM and LG shelve plans for fourth U.S. EV battery plant
Jan. 20, 2023 Updated Fri., Jan. 20, 2023 at 4:55 p.m.
General Motors and its battery joint-venture partner LG Energy Solution have canceled plans to build a fourth plant in the U.S., according to people familiar with the matter.
GM still intends to build another battery plant in the U.S. to support its electric-vehicle ambitions, the company said in a statement that didn’t specify a partner. The Detroit automaker has held discussions in recent months with other battery suppliers, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private.
The split between South Korea’s LG and GM comes after a tense stretch in the partnership. GM has wanted to ramp up EV volume faster than LG has, and secure plans for a fourth plant soon, one of the people said. The battery maker didn’t commit to GM’s timeline so the company is looking at other partners.
There were a couple other incidents that tested the relationship, the people said. The automaker had to recall all of the 143,000 Chevrolet Bolt EVs it had built due to battery fires, and its partner picked up most of the cost. They also had differing views on how to manage a union organizing drive at the Lordstown, Ohio, Ultium Cells plant. The two companies will continue to operate the joint venture plant there, plus two planned facilities in Tennessee and Michigan.
Ultium declined to comment, while LG didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
GM struck a deal in 2021 with the battery manufacturer to recover $1.9 billion of the $2 billion in costs for a recall of batteries in the Bolt EVs.
There were also disagreements over the push by the United Auto Workers union to organize the Ohio plant. GM was willing to accept an expedited “card check” process, through which management would recognize the union if half of workers indicate a willingness to organize, according to the people. LG has one more board member than GM and refused, which eventually forced an election that the union won in December.
GM still plans on building four battery plants to have enough supply to build 400,000 EVs in North America by mid-2024 and 1 million in 2025. The Ultium plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee, opens this year and another in Michigan is scheduled to start production next year.
The Ultium battery platform will be used for 30 EVs by 2025. The first two, the Hummer pickup and Cadillac Lyriq, just started production last year and will ramp up this year. GM also plans to start building the electric Chevrolet Silverado pickup, Blazer and Equinox EVs this year. Those vehicles will get battery cells from Lordstown.
“We’ve been very clear that our plan includes investing in a fourth U.S. cell plant, but we’re not going to comment on speculation,” GM spokesman Dan Flores said in a statement.
GM shares were little changed at 3:36 p.m. in New York. The cancellation of the fourth plant was reported earlier by the Wall Street Journal.
Bloomberg’s Gabrielle Coppola contributed to this report.
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