GM slow EV production blamed on supplier; Chevy Bolt will live on

on Jul26
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GM Chair and CEO Mary Barra addresses investors Oct. 6, 2021 at the GM Tech Center in Warren, Michigan.

Photo by Steve Fecht for General Motors

DETROIT — General Motors CEO Mary Barra on Tuesday blamed a supplier of automation equipment for the slow ramp-up of GM’s new electric vehicles, after Wall Street criticized the rollout amid bold predictions the company would catch up to industry leader Tesla.

Shares of GM were down roughly 4% in morning trading Tuesday despite quarterly results that topped year-ago performance. Analysts during the call questioned the company’s pricing strategies, EV profitability guidance and ability to hit previously announced targets for the vehicles.

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“We have experienced unexpected delays in the ramp because our automation equipment supplier has been struggling with delivery issues that are constraining module assembly capacity,” Barra said during the company’s second-quarter earnings call Tuesday.

GM produced 50,000 EVs through the first half of this year for North America, in line with internal targets but far slower than many expected. A majority of that production was its outgoing Chevrolet Bolt models, rather than new EVs that utilize the automaker’s “Ultium” batteries and technologies.

Barra, a former plant manager and auto engineer, said she has been “disappointed” with the unnamed supplier and that she has personally been involved with problem solving and updating the automated lines. She said GM was “surprised” how little progress the supplier had made.

The automaker expects significant improvements in production through the end of this year, Barra said, with constraints “primarily” being behind the company by then, if not sooner.

“We’ve already seen a lot of improvement from, I’ll say, you know, the last four to six weeks; we’re going to continue on that path,” Barra said.

Despite the holdup with the battery modules, which house the vehicles’ battery cells, Barra said the company still plans to produce 100,000 vehicles in North America during the second half of this year, leading to 400,000 cumulative vehicles produced by mid-2024.

“We’re not walking away from any of the targets we put out,” Barra said.

Reviving the Bolt

A Chevrolet Bolt EUV on display at the New York Auto Show, April 13, 2022.

Scott Mlyn | CNBC

Barra said plans to build a next-generation Bolt follow increased consumer demand for the vehicles after significant price cuts last year that made the vehicles the least expensive EVs in the U.S.

Barra said GM will be updating the vehicle with technologies from its new battery and software programs, known respectively as Ultium and Ultifi.

GM declined to release additional details about the next-generation Bolt, such as timing, price and production location.

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