Two Michigan plants will receive a combined investment of more than $1 billion, General Motors said, as it prepares to roll out its next-generation heavy-duty pickups.
Demand has been surging for pickups, in general, though GM’s HD models alone scored a 38% jump in demand last year. Heavy-duty trucks are among the industry’s most profitable product lines. Additionally, Ford is readying to unleash its next series of Super Duty pickups for the 2024 model year.
“Today we are announcing significant investments in Flint to strengthen our industry-leading full-size pickup business by preparing two plants to build the next-generation ICE HD trucks,” Gerald Johnson, executive vice president, Global Manufacturing and Sustainability, said in a statement released Monday morning. “These investments reflect our commitment to our loyal truck customers and the efforts of the dedicated employees of Flint Assembly and Flint Metal Center.”
New HD trucks expected to debut as 2025 models
The project will benefit two different GM models: the heavy-duty versions of the Chevrolet Silverado and the GMC Sierra.
Though the automaker did not provide specifics, industry sources, including suppliers working on those programs, have indicated that the new trucks will debut next year as 2025 models.
To support the launches, GM will invest $788 million in its Flint Assembly plant. Another $233 million will be spent to upgrade the Flint Metal Center, which will supply key structural components for the HD trucks.
GM has recently invested more than $1.7 billion to upgrade plants in the Flint area — where the automaker was founded more than a century ago. That includes $579 million for the Flint Engine Operations that will provide some of the V-8 engines to be used in various versions of the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra.
Currying UAW favor
The timing of the latest announcement could help GM curry favor as it prepares to head back to the bargaining table this summer with the United Auto Workers union. The UAW will be seeking to negotiate new contracts with all three Detroit-based automakers, including GM, as well as Ford and Stellantis. Some observers have worried that the talks could break down in light of the strident rhetoric coming from the union’s militant new President Shawn Fain.
“When business is booming as it has been for the past decade — due to the hard work of UAW members — the company should continue to invest in its workforce,” UAW Vice President Mike Booth said in a statement Monday.
GM CEO Mary Barra has laid out plans to go completely battery-powered by 2035. In its news release, however, GM appeared to be trying to retain the loyalty of traditional truck buyers, some of whom oppose the industry’s ongoing shift to electric propulsion. Ford Motor Co. last year launched the Lightning, an all-electric version of its F-150 pickup, and GM will be rolling out a battery-powered version of the mainstream Chevrolet Silverado this year, with the GMC Sierra to follow in 2024.
But it has not announced plans to electrify its heavy-duty model, with industry analysts like Sam Abuelsamid of Guidehouse Insights cautioning the high demand placed on HD models will make them among the last products to go fully electric.
The investment in the two Flint plants, GM said in its statement, “highlights the company’s commitment to continue providing customers a strong portfolio of ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles for years to come.”
Even with the continuing use of gas and diesel technologies, the new GM trucks are expected to deliver better mileage than the current lines, translating into lower carbon emissions.