FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The chairman for a local autoworkers union says General Motors’ Fort Wayne Assembly plant employees have “nothing to panic over at this point” even as the automaker plans to make an electric version of the popular pickup produced in Fort Wayne – in Michigan.
On Tuesday, General Motors announced that an electric version of the Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck will get an estimated 400 miles of range per charge. The truck would be built at a factory straddling the border of Detroit and the enclave of Hamtramck.
It’s part of GM’s larger plan to phase out gasoline and diesel vehicles by 2035 and become carbon neutral by 2040.
The move has workers at Fort Wayne Assembly, which manufactures the gas-powered Silverado and GMC Sierra, “wondering.”
“I know what usually sends a ripple effect across especially an organization like mine, that builds that product currently,” said Richie LeTourneau, the bargaining chairman for the UAW Local 2209. “It’s never good anytime that a next gen vehicle is going to another plant, although we have never built that electric vehicle. It definitely has everybody kind of wondering.”
LeTourneau said the planned production at the plant in Michigan is “GM just testing the market of the electric vehicle” and nothing to worry about at Fort Wayne Assembly.
“It’s not great news, but it’s nothing to panic on now,” said LeTournea. “I’ve talked to a lot of people in the last few days, even prior to this announcement.”
LeTourneau said he is meeting with the manufacturing manager of the truck group and the vice president of General Motors on Thursday to confirm that there is nothing to panic about. He said they are in some “major discussions” about additional funding for a capital investment for the Michigan plant, which he said could ramp up Fort Wayne’s volume.
LeTourneau said Tuesday’s announcement left some employees concerned that the product is going to go somewhere else, or that Fort Wayne’s plant may lose the opportunity for GM’s next gen vehicle.
However, he said he doesn’t see that happening.
“One, the market’s been strong since I’ve been in the truck business for three decades, and we have never slowed down, we continued to dominate the market, and I highly believe that even if the electric vehicle wins over our customers that nothing’s going to change,” said LeTourneau.
According to him, Fort Wayne’s plant is selling more trucks than they are building. He said they could work 7 days a week and still not catch up.
“If the Silverado/Sierra market never changes and it stays that strong, whether it’s electric or gas power, there’s not going to be enough plants to build,” said LeTourneau. “Another plant is not going to kill us.”
LeTourneau said there have not been any discussions about Fort Wayne’s plant going all-electric, but there could be an opportunity for this once what’s being done at the Hamtramck and Detroit is perfected.
The new plant in Michigan would also build the new 2024 GMC Hummer SUV.