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GM extends plant's closure amid massive Chevy Bolt recall

GM said Thursday it is extending the downtime at Orion Assembly an additional two weeks as a result of a battery pack shortage related to the recently announced Bolt recall.

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GM's Orion Assembly builds the all-electric Chevrolet Bolt used for testing its GM Cruise self-driving fleet. General Motors/TNS

DETROIT — The massive global recall of all Chevrolet Bolt EVs and EUVs has prompted General Motors to close the plant that makes the vehicles until Sept. 6.

GM had idled Orion Assembly, the plant where it assembles the Bolt EVs and EUVs, last week due to a global shortage of semiconductor chips used in a variety of car parts. The shortage is impacting the entire auto industry with GM and others having to idle plants, reduce shifts or partially build vehicles until more chips are available.

GM said Thursday it is extending the downtime at Orion Assembly an additional two weeks as a result of a battery pack shortage related to the recently announced Bolt recall.

GM and battery maker LG Chem are still investigating what caused manufacturing defects that resulted in at least 10 Bolts catching fire.

"We are extending downtime to include the weeks of Aug. 30 and Sept. 6," said Dan Flores, GM spokesman, in a statement. "We will continue to evaluate additional production schedule adjustments."

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About 1,000 hourly workers build the Bolt vehicles and the Cruise AV test vehicles at Orion Assembly in Lake Orion.

UAW President Ray Curry was asked Thursday about the recall's role in shutting down the plant and what it will mean for union members.

"That's a discussion that is just really getting started and ongoing at this point," Curry said, adding that because it is a national recall he cannot elaborate on any discussions between the union and GM at this time.

Two weeks ago, GM issued a new recall that expands to all Bolt EVs and the new EUV for fire risk, saying it will provide customers with an eight-year warranty or 100,000 miles on new battery modules for the affected cars.

GM said it expects the recall to cost it $1.8 billion and is seeking reimbursement for some of that cost from LG Chem. The high voltage batteries used in the Bolts are made by LG Chem's Ochang, South Korea, facility though GM discovered manufacturing defects in certain battery cells produced at LG manufacturing facilities beyond the Ochang, Korea, plant, GM said.

GM CEO Mary Barra said the battery defects are limited to the Bolt. GM's upcoming EVs will be on GM's new proprietary Ultium battery platform, which it developed with LG Energy Solution. It will power the GMC Hummer EV pickup due to market later this year and the Cadillac Lyriq SUV to come next year.

"With our joint venture with LG, who is a valued partner, we're going to be able to combine their expertise with our expertise, so I have a lot of confidence in our Ultium platform," Barra told Bloomberg Television. But she added that GM is open to other battery options for future models.

"We have multiple pathways with battery technology to make sure we're going to have a leadership position," Barra said. "The flexibility that's been designed into the Ultium platform is, many different chemistries can be introduced."

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GM and LG must negotiate over how to divide the total cost of recalling about 141,000 Bolts globally, a cost of $1.8 billion. At the same time, the two are building four battery plants in the U.S.

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