A second major manufacturing facility for EV battery production has been announced by General Motors and consumer giant LG Energy Solutions, which will ante up an estimated $2.3 billion to tool up their jointly operated Ultium battery cell plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee – where GM used to build Saturn automobiles – with a projected opening date in late 2023. It won’t be a repurposed Saturn assembly line, but instead a wholly new production site occupying about 2.8 million square feet. Ultium battery cells will be made there, via an anticipated 1,300 new jobs, and then shipped to the former Saturn factory on site. It joins another GM/LG alliance on batteries, where their first plant, on the historic GM site in Lordstown, Ohio, is currently under construction. The first vehicle on tap for EV assembly at Spring Hill is the forthcoming Cadillac LYRIQ crossover, while production of the ICE-powered Cadillac XT6 and XT5 continues at the existing Spring Hill plant.
The announcement late last week by GM and LG prompted Big Labor to weigh in on its implications for autoworkers. The Associated Press reported on Saturday that the United Auto Workers is now calling on GM to pay full union wages at Spring Hill, the same money it pays to line workers building non-EVs at GM plants, which can typically run now to $31 hourly. In announcing the imminent Lordstown deal two years ago, GM said workers at the new plant would be paid as component manufacturers, compensated at a lower hourly rate than line workers already building vehicles at existing GM plants. The AP speculated that the wage issue may draw the attention of the Biden administration, which has pushed strongly for an industry-wide switch from ICE propulsion to EVs, promoting the changeover as a potential source of high-paying union jobs.