Chevrolet Bolt (via InsideEVs reader - MTN Ranger)

Chevrolet Bolt (via InsideEVs reader - MTN Ranger)

With production of the Chevrolet Bolt now underway for a few weeks, we decided to take a brief look at General Motors' production capability at its Orion Assembly site, home of the Bolt EV and the Chevy Sonic.

Chevrolet Bolt EV on the line in Orion, Michigan

Chevrolet Bolt EV on the line in Orion, Michigan

Currently, the facility is set up so that Bolt EVs can roll down the same final assembly line as the Sonic sedan and hatchback.

The Orion factory is only operating only one shift at the moment and there are no immediate plans to add an additional shift - as shift 2 was discontinued only last January, and excess workers moved to GM's Hamtramck facility (where the Volt is made, as well as the CT6, Impala and LaCrosse).

But making room for the extra capacity/workers needed for the Bolt EV was also the end of Buick Verano production (~35k in 2016) at Orion (the Verano was based on the now defunct first generation Cruze).

We note that the current single shift in Orion is capable of producing approximately 90,000 vehicles a year, which at the height of the popularity for the Sonic (in 2014), was right-sized to satisfy demand.

Lately however, with falling Sonic demand (sales will likely be in the ~60,000 range when 2016 ends), and the end of the Verano, that means a lot less cars are now being produced.  Enter the Bolt EV.

We've further learned that Orion Assembly can alter its product shift as needed, meaning that all Sonics can roll down the line, or all Bolts, or any combination in between. Therefore, the theoretical maximim for the Bolt is 90,000 if allotted as such.. Production won't reach that level unless the Sonic goes bye-bye and/or the demand for the Bolt soars, but that's the production cap as it stands.

Chevrolet Bolt EV Interior

Chevrolet Bolt EV Interior

Quoting Automotive News:

"GM redesigned the Orion assembly operation to allow workers to build either Bolts or Sonics and can shift production depending on demand, said Yves Dontigny, launch manager for the Bolt."

"At one assembly station, after a Sonic body is mated to its gasoline engine and axles, a carrier wheels the battery pack for a Bolt into place. The same workers secure it to a Bolt body hanging on a carrier overhead."

Right now, it's being reported that every fourth or fifth car off the line is a Bolt. Production is steadily ramping up and is expected to hit 30,000 or so for all of 2017, but now that we know there's more capacity in place (provided LG can also provide components and more importantly 60 kWh battery packs at the same pace), perhaps we'll see 50,000 or so by 2018?

Source: Automotive News