What GM’s investment in electric means for the auto industry

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — General Motors is paving the way for its future electric vehicle launches, planning to open more plants to build the batteries that power them.

Billions of dollars are being invested into GM’s plans to mass produce more electric vehicles, with a new LG Chem plant being built in Ohio and thoughts of another in Tennessee, the Associated Press reports. There is already an LG Chem battery plant in Holland.

“You can always tell the importance of something to an automaker when you see the investment money rolling,” Mike Wall, a local auto analyst with IHS Markit, said Thursday. “And it’s rolling heavily right now.”

Normal internal combustion engines are not going away any time soon, but worldwide interests and trends favor an electric future.

“The general trend, as well, in the US — and we’re going to be seeing this more with the new administration — is going to be embracing higher fuel efficiency requirements,” Wall said. “It’s happening.”

As far as a timeline on when this will become the norm, that depends largely on customer reception and interest.

“A lot of this is going to be incumbent on the automakers, the dealers, to convey the value proposition of a battery-powered vehicle,” Wall said. “And, frankly, consumers to come along on this journey, as well.”

He said the push toward electric could disrupt the supply chain and jobs along the way, but that remains to be seen.

“Actual headcount is generally less,” Wall said. “It does not take as many people to build a battery electric vehicle as it does internal combustion, if you look at beginning to end, if you will.”

According to the Lakeshore Advantage economic development agency, the LG plant in Holland is one of the region’s largest employers, with more than 900 employees.

With all of the American auto manufacturers investing more money into electric, there’s always the potential for more opportunities.

“There’s a place for West Michigan in this, too. I’ll be quick to point that out,” Wall said. “It’s indicative of that broader megaton and how it’s impacting the US auto landscape.”