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GM Rolls Out Safety Protocols For Ventilator-Making Workers

General Motors Co on Thursday rolled out a series of safety measures for workers in Indiana who will make ventilators, outlining what could be a blueprint for opening U.S. auto plants in the coming weeks. More than 1,000 GM workers will make the ventilators at GM’s Kokomo, Indiana, plant. The automaker aims to begin mass production by mid-April and to make 10,000 ventilators a month by summer. The measures include checking workers’ temperature as they arrive for work, and each work station will be placed at least 6 feet (1.83 m) apart, GM said.

There will be a 30-minute interval between shifts so workers can clean their work stations when they arrive and before they leave. Cleaning crews will sanitize common areas and “touch areas” such as door handles, at least three times per shift. A spokeswoman for GM said the measures may form a blueprint for safety protocols at the rest of GM’s plants once the automaker decides to restart production when the pandemic crisis recedes.

Other big automakers and large U.S. employers in other industries, such as Amazon.com Inc , are laying the groundwork to bring employees back to workplaces using screening and social distancing to address COVID-19 safety concerns. Earlier this week, Ford Motor Co said it will produce 50,000 ventilators over the next 100 days at a plant in Michigan in cooperation with General Electric’s healthcare unit. It said it can then build 30,000 per month as needed to treat patients afflicted with the coronavirus.

Ford plans to deploy “a whole host of techs to keep workers safe,” developed in cooperation with the United Auto Workers union, Ford manufacturing executive Adrian Price said in a call earlier this week. Ford will organize production lines so workers are a safe distance apart and use technology to check their health, Price said. “We have been planning the reopening of our facilities with this same approach.”

GM has been working with ventilator firm Ventec Life Systems, numerous auto suppliers and other ventilator firms as officials warn the United States may need tens of thousands of additional ventilators to treat seriously ill patients.

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General Motors, Ford Future Production Plan Reveal Companies To Focus on SUVs, Instead of EVs in the US

General Motors Co and Ford Motor Co have widely touted their commitment to emission-free electric cars, but their production plans show a growing reliance on ever-larger gas-powered vehicles. The two biggest U.S. automakers will make more than 5 million SUVs and pickup trucks in 2026, but only about 320,000 electric vehicles, according to detailed production plans for North America seen by Reuters. That will be about 5% of their combined vehicle production in North America, but less than Tesla Inc, the world leader in electric vehicles, produced last year. The plans show that Detroit’s Big Two are betting their short-term future on satisfying America’s demand for bigger, petroleum-fueled vehicles which they can sell at a higher profit margin than mostly smaller, expensive-to-develop electric vehicles.

Large SUVs consume about a quarter more energy than midsize cars, meaning the plans will most likely wipe out any gains in overall fuel efficiency or reduction in auto emissions that were targeted over the next six years, according to industry experts.

General Motors, Ford Future Production Plan Revealed

The recent collapse of oil prices – pointing toward cheap gas for the foreseeable future – and a dip in demand caused by the coronavirus may only serve to strengthen automakers’ commitment to the strategy. Detroit has tried to latch onto the consumer and investor excitement over electric vehicles made by Tesla, whose market value is double that of GM and Ford combined, even though its sales are much smaller.

GM executives have been repeating a “zero emissions” mantra since 2017, and the company’s website features a prominent commitment to its “all-electric future.” Ford’s Executive Chairman Bill Ford told the Detroit auto show two years ago: “We’re all in on this. We’re taking our mainstream vehicles, our most iconic vehicles, and we’re electrifying them.”

But it is hard to detect a major change of direction from the companies’ production plans. According to data from AutoForecast Solutions seen by Reuters, North American production of SUV models by GM and Ford will outpace production of traditional cars by more than eight to one in 2026, and 93% of those SUVs are expected to be gas-fueled. The data has not previously been reported.

AutoForecast’s data is based on planning information provided to suppliers by the automakers and is widely used across the industry. GM and Ford executives interviewed by Reuters did not dispute the accuracy of the data.

“GM and Ford understand that buyers want more SUVs and trucks, but they’re also trying to play to Wall Street, which thinks the future is all about electric vehicles,” said Sam Fiorani, vice president, global vehicle forecasting at AutoForecast. “The Detroit automakers would love to get a little of that Tesla magic and money.”

Internal production plans from other industry sources seen by Reuters support AutoForecast’s numbers, which show GM and Ford expect to produce about 320,000 pure electric vehicles – powered solely by a battery – in North America in 2026. That is nearly 10 times the 35,000 they have planned to build in 2020, but fewer than the 367,500 Tesla delivered last year.

It is only a fraction of the 5.2 million SUVs and pickups that GM and Ford expect to make in North America in 2026, according to the AutoForecast data, up 14% from 4.6 million SUVs and pickups in 2019. SUVs and pickups will account for about 87% of vehicles made by GM and Ford in the region in 2026, compared with about 82% last year.

Executives at GM and Ford told Reuters in interviews they are serious about launching more electric vehicles in the United States in the coming years, but they are concerned about getting too far ahead of mass-market demand.

“We’re trying to time this with the natural demand of consumers (so) we’re not forced to do artificial things and we don’t violate the laws of economics,” Hau Thai-Tang, Ford’s chief product development and purchasing officer, told Reuters.

GM Chief Executive Mary Barra said in early March the company planned to spend $20 billion to bring a million electric vehicles a year to market by the middle of the 2020s. A majority of those are expected to be built and sold in China, where a government mandate calls for increasing numbers of electric vehicles.

“We want to meet customer demand with the best possible (carbon) footprint on the planet to help improve the CO2 (carbon dioxide) situation,” said Doug Parks, GM’s executive vice president of global product development, purchasing and supply chain, regarding GM’s production plans for SUVs and electric vehicles in North America.

The long-term battle between electrons and petroleum to be the primary energy source for future transportation took an unexpected turn with a crash in oil this month that sent fuel-pump prices to 20-year lows, with no signs of rising, making the cost of running internal combustion vehicles even more attractive to buyers.

The spread of the coronavirus will put more financial pressure on automakers, according to analysts, limiting their capacity to develop and build money-losing vehicles. A global recession triggered by the epidemic “could add strain to balance sheets and ability to fund aggressive technology shifts,” said Morgan Stanley auto analyst Adam Jonas.

In such an environment, automakers are not looking to depart from their winning formula.

They make more profit on each luxury SUV – such as GM’s $80,000 Cadillac Escalade or Ford’s $76,000 Lincoln Navigator – than they do on a dozen compact cars, according to analysts.

Because of that, automakers are replacing compact sedans with small SUVs that share many of the car’s mechanical parts, but sell for more. Ford discontinued the Focus compact sedan in the United States, which gets 31 miles per gallon of gas. Ford customers who want a similar-sized vehicle now can buy a 26 miles-per-gallon Ford Escape compact SUV, whose starting price is $6,000 higher.

That may be good for automakers’ finances, but probably not for the environment.

SUVs and pickups burn more fuel and emit more carbon dioxide than comparable sedans, and those with larger “footprints,” – the area between the points where the wheels touch the ground – are subject to looser emissions standards.

Meanwhile, the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump is threatening to roll back tougher fuel economy and emissions standards proposed by his predecessor, Barack Obama, removing an incentive for automakers to make more fuel-efficient vehicles.

That all indicates that any overall reduction in greenhouse gas emissions enabled by new electric vehicles will be largely, or entirely, offset by the continued substitution of gasoline-fueled SUVs for cars, experts say.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) warned of this outcome in October, in a report that showed growing demand for SUVs across the world was the second-largest contributor to the increase in global carbon dioxide emissions from 2010 to 2018.

“If consumers’ appetite for SUVs continues to grow at a similar pace seen in the last decade, SUVs would add nearly 2 million barrels a day in global oil demand by 2040, offsetting the savings from nearly 150 million electric cars,” said the IEA report. The IEA declined to comment on this story.

The Obama White House predicted that doubling average car and truck fuel efficiency from 2011 to 2025 would cut greenhouse gas emissions by 6 billion tons. That does not look likely to happen. 
Trump’s White House is planning to follow through on its plan to roll back the Obama rules by the end of March, administration officials have told Reuters. The Environmental Protection Agency, which regulates U.S. auto emissions, did not respond to a request for comment.

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GM Launches Advanced Electric Batteries To Power Its EVs

U.S. automaker General Motors on Wednesday launched Ultium, a battery with higher capacity and fast charging capabilities, to power its upcoming line of electric vehicles.

The Detroit-based company said most of its new electric vehicles will have Ultium’s 400-volt battery packs, while its truck platform will have 800-volt batteries.

Popular brands owned by GM such as Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC and Buick will be launching electric vehicles this year.

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General Motors To Tout Its Electric Vehicles To Investors Swooning Over Tesla

General Motors Co executives on Wednesday will tackle one of their toughest tasks: Persuading investors that a Detroit automaker can catch up with Elon Musk and Tesla Inc as vehicles go electric.

Even as global markets reel from coronavirus fears, Tesla’s valuation is outpacing that of GM and most other legacy automakers. On Tuesday, Tesla’s market cap hovered around $144 billion, more than three times GM’s $45 billion.

GM is by far the larger manufacturer by volume, and generates more cash and profits. But in the electric vehicle market, Tesla is the leader.

Last year, Tesla sold 367,500 electric vehicles globally, including 223,000 in the United States. GM sold just 16,400 Chevrolet Bolt EVs to U.S. buyers, and 60,000 Baojun E-Series models in China with joint venture partner SAIC Motor.

GM Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra and President Mark Reuss have ramped up electric vehicle development over the past three years, focusing on a proprietary battery, a low-cost flexible vehicle design and a blueprint for high-volume production, mainly in China.

The company has revealed its electric vehicle strategy in incremental steps – announcing the Hummer brand will be reborn as an electric pickup and partnering with Korean battery maker LG Chem to build a $2.3 billion battery plant near a shuttered GM car plant in Lordstown, Ohio. GM is now trying to put the broader picture into focus for investors.

GM has said it aims to reduce the cost of battery cells – the single greatest expense in electric vehicles – to less than $100 per kilowatt-hour. That in turn could slash the cost of battery packs for electric vehicles like the Chevrolet Bolt EV by up to 45%, experts say.

GM is also developing an advanced battery, in partnership with LG Chem and Japan’s Honda Motor Co, that will be smaller than current EV batteries, can be charged more quickly and will provide more energy.

Musk has told investors that Tesla has battery cost and range breakthroughs in the works that it will describe at a “Battery Day” in April.

Barra has said GM plans to spend more on electric vehicles than on gasoline-powered cars over the next five years. But it has not put a figure on how much it will invest in its efforts to rival Tesla and traditional competitors such as Volkswagen AG or Ford Motor Co as the electric vehicle market develops.

Barra has, however, promised that GM will make money on electric cars by 2021.

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General Motors To Add 1200 Jobs At Michigan Plants To Meet SUV Demand

No. 1 U.S. automaker General Motors Co said on Friday it plans to add more than 1,200 jobs at its Lansing plants in Michigan to meet the growing demand for its SUVs.

The plants will add about 800 employees for production of the Chevrolet Traverse and Buick Enclave SUVs, and about 400 employees to support the launch of the new Cadillac CT4 and CT5 sedans, the company said.

Passenger cars have fallen out of favor with buyers and automakers have focused on selling larger SUVs that are more profitable.

GM has invested more than $1 billion in its Lansing plants since 2015.

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