Environmental Groups Chide GM for ICE Investments

On the heels of General Motors recent announcement, it plans to spend $852 million to boost production of a new internal combustion engine, the depth of General Motors commitment to electric vehicles is being challenged by environmentalists.

GM Executive Vice President Gerald Johnson announces the plans to invest $918 million in four plants supporting ICE engine production.

Dan Becker, a longtime critic of the auto industry’s policies and practices involving vehicle emissions and fuel economy, said in statement this week that GM’s statements and actions don’t match up. 

GM CEO Mary Barra has said GM intends to finance the development of electric vehicles by selling gas-powered cars and trucks, noted Becker, who is director of the Safe Climate Transport Campaign at the Center for Biological Diversity. 

GM’s EV program continues to struggle

“Meanwhile, GM is struggling to manufacture EVs at the same rate as its competitors and failing to meet surging demand for the few EVs it already sells — all while announcing new EVs that aren’t close to being available,” said Becker, who was joined by Katherine Garcia, director of the Clean Transportation for All campaign at the Sierra Club.

“For a company that is promising to sell 100% electric cars by 2035, GM does not seem to be moving as quickly on EVs as it claims.”

GM said last week it plans — to the apparent dismay of environmentalists — to spend $918 million at plants in Michigan, Ohio and New York to prepare to produce the next generation Small Block V-8. Part of the investments in Ohio and New York, $64 million, also will be used to support GM’s EV plans.

“We’re committed to electric vehicles. We’re equally committed to the internal combustion engine,” noted Gerald Johnson, GM executive vice president of Global Manufacturing and Sustainability during a press conference at GM’s engine operations in Flint, Michigan, noting GM will spend $27 billion on EV production in North America by 2025.

GM’s investing nearly $1 billion to support ICE engine production — to the dismay of environmental groups.

Flint engine plants gets largest piece of new investment

The engine plant in Flint will get the biggest piece of the new investment, $579 million, to prepare for production of the sixth generation of the GM’s Small Block V-8, which has a long history inside GM and which Johnson said is “coming home” to Flint.

The new iteration of the Small Block engine is designed specifically for the “legion” of GM customers, who want an internal combustion engine in their pickup trucks or sport utility vehicles, Johnson said.

Johnson, however, was not prepared to say when production of the new Small Block V-8 will begin, or precisely which vehicles will use the new engines. But he emphasized the significant investments GM is making will “strengthen our industry-leading line-up of full-size pickups and SUVs.”

GM plans to spend an additional $216 million at a GM plant in Bay City, Michigan, north of Flint to prepare the facility to build camshafts, connecting rods and block/head machining to support V-8 production at Flint Engine Operations, Johnson said.

The company will invest $55 million in its casting operation in Defiance, Ohio. Roughly $47 million will be invested to prepare the Defiance plant to make a variety of block castings to support future V-8 engine programs. The investment includes $8 million to build a casting development cell for castings to support future EV strategies, Johnson said.

GM is investing $45 million at its Defiance, Ohio castings plant.

GM will also invest a total of $68 million in a plant in Rochester, New York, including $12 million to prepare the facility to make intake manifolds and fuel rails for the future production of the new V-8. The remaining $56 million will be used to set up production of battery pack cooling lines for electric vehicles.

Johnson added the ICE business is vital to GM and will be for years to come. There are a substantial number of customers, who are not ready to make the switch to EVs, he said. With its new investments GM is underscoring its commitment to continue providing customers with a strong portfolio of ICE vehicles well into the future, he added.

ICE investments don’t mark a retreat

The investments around the Small Block V-8 do not mean GM is backing away from its commitment to electric vehicles or its plans to phase out its ICE light-duty vehicles by 2035, while continuing to accelerate during the transition to an all-electric future, Johnson said.

But Johnson also hinted GM could be hedging its bets. “In 12 years, a lot can change,” he noted during the press conference. He also acknowledged GM was not ready to make any announcements about the fourth battery plant it had promised to build in North America.

Overall, spending on ICE products is declining across the auto industry, noted Rod Lache, senior analyst at Wolfe Research during a conference sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.