Detroit, Michigan — General Motors is moving production of the Chevrolet Volt's electric drive unit from Mexico to a Detroit-area factory as it updates the slow-selling car to increase its electric range and make it perform better.
The Volt can go about 38 miles on battery power before a small gasoline generator kicks in. In the revamped version, coming in the second half of next year, the battery will store more energy yet be smaller, allowing the car to go farther on battery power, CEO Mary Barra said in a speech delivered at the Detroit Economic Club on Tuesday.
Moving the electric drive from Ramos Arzipe, Mexico, to the Warren, Michigan, transmission plant means that all of the Volt's main components — the electric drive unit, battery pack and gasoline generator — will be made in the U.S. starting next year. An electric drive unit powers the Volt's wheels.
GM won't hire any new workers in Warren to make the drive system.
Barra also announced that GM will invest another $300 million in Southeast Michigan factories before the end of this year, but she gave no details.
She also did not say how far the second-generation Volt will be able to go on battery power alone, but said it will be a "significant leap forward" in technology from the current version.
The new car, she said, will accelerate faster than the old one and have a more efficient gas generator than the current 1.4-Liter, four-cylinder engine. GM announced last year that it would build a new 1.5-Liter four-cylinder engine for the Volt at a factory in Flint, Michigan.
In the speech, Barra conceded the Volt's 70,000 in sales since 2010 did not reach expectations. "The scorecard on the first-generation Volt is good, but not everything we wanted," she said. "We have learned so much, including that breakthrough technology doesn't always advance in a straight line."
Through September this year, GM has sold 14,540 Volts, down more than 13 percent from a year ago as gas prices have slipped downward to around $3 per gallon.
Barra also said GM still has to improve significantly and quickly, and she's becoming impatient since taking over the company in January. Shortly after she started in the top job, GM went through the largest recall crisis in its history, calling back more than 30 million vehicles so far this year. But recalls weren't mentioned in the prepared remarks.
"I want it understood that the day of GM being a polite competitor is over," she said. "We will be tough, unrelenting competitors."