FLINT, MI – General Motors will invest an additional $150 million into its heavy-duty pickup assembly plant here to surpass $1.2 billion invested at the facility since 2013, as the automaker bids to raise output and meet brisk truck demand in the U.S.
“We’ve been running flat-out for five years, but we’ve been capacity-constrained,” says GM President Mark Reuss, who delivered the news to the plant’s 5,000 employees earlier today.
Flint Truck Assembly builds the highly profitable Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD and GMC Sierra 2500HD pickups. Reuss stood in nearly the same spot four months ago to reveal the redesigned ’20 Silverado 2500HD. Today, salable units were rolling down the line.
“This week, we begin shipments to dealers,” Reuss says. “Now we go, we ship.”
The investment will increase production by about 40,000 units annually. The plant runs a 3-crew shift six days per week, just like its light-duty pickup sister plant in Fort Wayne, IN, which got news of a $24 million investment to increase annual output two weeks ago.
The investments come as the U.S. market shows signs of cooling, but pickup sales remain red hot, witnessing greater gains than any other segment the past two months, according to Wards Intelligence data. Total pickup volume in May was 9.3% above like-2018, and the segment recorded a market share of 17.9% versus 16.3% year-ago.
Reuss says pickup demand shows no signs of waning, even with ever-tightening fuel-economy and carbon-dioxide emissions rules. He points to a consumer willing to pay for their preferred set of wheels and an industry that continues to innovate for greater efficiency.
“People earn a living with their trucks. They use them as their primary means of transportation; they use them as a high-end statement of themselves, and I don’t see that changing, fundamentally,” he tells Wards on the factory floor.
“And I don’t see that changing radically with the regulatory environment, because, quite frankly, the industry has responded in terms of efficiency,” he adds. “You see massive weight coming out of these trucks. The industry has responded, and we’ve kept the costs down.”
The new Chevy Silverado light-duty truck, for example, shed 450 lbs. (204 kg) from its previous-generation model. Reuss admits average transaction prices on pickups have spiked, with range-topping models from manufacturers surpassing $70,000, but he says lower-end volume models remain reasonable.
“Affordability at the low end of the range is still there,” he says.
The outlay in Flint is meant specifically to increase production of crew-cab models, a body style of which GM has been capacity-constrained for many years. With the latest pickup redesign, which launched last year, GM has put more of those at the front end of its light-duty and heavy-duty launches.
The strategy has come at the sacrifice of market share, but the Detroit automaker says crew-cab sales of the Silverado 1500 and Sierra 1500 in the first quarter were up 20% compared with the same period last year. GM projects another significant gain for the second quarter, and Reuss notes some volume trim levels have yet to launch.
Over the coming weeks, Flint will see its conveyors and related tooling enhanced to support the production increase.