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Ontario Premier Doug Ford (left), General Motors Canada outgoing President Scott Bell and Federal Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry François-Philippe Champagne (right) sit in the back of a pickup truck at GM Canada’s Canadian Technical Centre, McLaughlin Advanced Technology Track in Oshawa, Ontario on Monday April 4, 2022.Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

General Motors Co. says it is on track to transform one of its Southwestern Ontario factories into Canada’s first full-scale electric vehicle production facility by the end of this year, with plans to roll the last internal combustion engine vehicle off the factory’s assembly line in the next few weeks.

The Detroit automaker will stop producing the Chevrolet Equinox at its CAMI plant in Ingersoll by the end of this month, in order to allow for the space to be retooled for electric vehicle, or EV, manufacturing. Come December, GM says, the plant will begin producing the EV600 cargo van under the automaker’s new all-electric commercial vehicle brand, BrightDrop.

At the same time, the automaker is ramping up production of the Chevrolet Silverado light-duty truck – an internal combustion engine, or ICE, vehicle – at its plant in Oshawa, Ont. GM is adding a third shift at the location, which will bring the total number of new jobs created by the plant’s recent reopening to more than 2,600.

The company provided the developments on Monday at a press conference at the Oshawa plant alongside provincial and federal officials, including Premier Doug Ford and federal Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne. Queen’s Park and Ottawa are each providing $259-million to support the $2-billion in upgrades at the two plants. The government funding will go toward capital investments in both the Oshawa ICE vehicle plant and the Ingersoll EV facility.

“We’re on track,” GM’s vice-president of corporate and environmental affairs, David Paterson, said in an interview. “We’ve gone faster than planned at both plants.”

The injections of cash into the Oshawa and Ingersoll facilities come after a concerted push by federal and provincial politicians to attract EV and battery manufacturing to Canada and Ontario amid a global race to win new investment as the industry transforms.

Last month, the two levels of government announced hundreds of millions of dollars in support for a joint venture with automaker Stellantis NV and battery giant LG Energy Solution to build a $5-billion EV battery plant in Windsor, Ont. Also last month, GM and South Korea’s POSCO Chemical announced a deal to build a $400-million plant in Becancour, Que., that will produce material for batteries to be used in EVs.

Citing two senior government sources, Reuters reported Monday that this week’s federal budget will include an investment of at least $2-billion for a strategy to accelerate the production and processing of critical minerals needed for the EV supply chain.

GM held its press conference less than one week after the federal government released the country’s first legally mandated climate plan, which details a suite of emissions-reducing initiatives – including in the transportation sector, which accounts for nearly one-third of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. Within four years, 20 per cent of light-duty vehicle sales will need to be zero-emissions cars, the plan says. That will go to 60 per cent in 2030 and 100 per cent in 2035.

GM has made environmental commitments of its own. The company plans to introduce 30 new EVs by 2025, eliminate tailpipe emissions from new light-duty vehicles by 2035, and become carbon neutral in its global products and operations by 2040.

While the Oshawa plant will for now produce gasoline-powered Silverados, a move toward EVs at the facility is “on the horizon,” GM’s Mr. Paterson said.

“This is a transition,” he said. “It’s a matter of time, over the next 10 to 15 years. You have to start somewhere, and then you move forward.”

When it comes to an electric Silverado, GM is starting at its Detroit Hamtramck location, otherwise known as Factory Zero because it is the automaker’s first fully dedicated EV assembly plant.

GM and other members of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association will be looking closely at the federal budget, which will be released Thursday.

In their prebudget submission to the Liberal government, the CVMA – which includes GM, Ford Motor Co. of Canada and Stellantis (FCA Canada Inc.) – urged Ottawa to increase and broaden the incentives offered under the Zero-Emission Vehicles Program, which provides rebates ranging from $2,500 for plug-in hybrids to $5,000 for battery only.

For vehicles with six seats or less, the program restricts the rebates to new vehicles with a maximum base price of $45,000 and a maximum price for models with upgraded features of $55,000. For vehicles with seven or more seats, the maximum base price is $55,000 and the maximum price with upgrades is $60,000.

In its submission, the association said Ottawa should “increase the incentive amount and broaden vehicle eligibility parameters to capture larger vehicles.” The association is also looking for additional investments to build out the public charging infrastructure.

“We started off selling electric vehicles primarily to people in cities who use smaller cars, often as a second family car,” Mr. Paterson said. “And now, we’re moving into the hard part, which is selling vehicles to people that want to take their kids to the hockey game or actually do real work – and that means bigger batteries. They’re not going to buy those vehicles versus the gasoline version, if the premium for electric upfront is $10,000 or $15,000 or even $20,000.”

With a report from Jeff Gray in Toronto

Follow Kathryn Blaze Baum on Twitter: @KBlazeBaumOpens in a new window

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