This rather unusual decision has been made because GM wants to deliver the vans quickly to customer FedEx. The U.S. automaker wants to stick to the plan of rolling out the vehicle in late 2021, Travis Katz, chief executive of GM's BrightDrop commercial van business, told Reuters.
"We are working alongside Kuka for initial low-volume production to keep up with market demand and remain on track to deliver our first EV600 order later this year.”
According to three unnamed people familiar with the matter and GM documents, Kuka will roll out fewer than 500 hand-built models at its plant in Livonia, Michigan, starting in late October.
The main reason why GM turned to the German parts supplier is because its CAMI assembly plant in Ingersoll, Ontario, is not yet ready to start building the BrightDrop EV600 electric van. The facility is still building the Chevrolet Equinox, and will continue to do so until April 2022.
Gallery: GM BrightDrop EV600 And EP1
GM estimates it will begin producing the EV600 at the Canadian factory in November 2022 in one shift. According to an announcement GM made in June, a second shift should be added by 2023, with a third one to follow in 2024. Previously, GM said it would invest $800 million in the CAMI plant to produce the large delivery van.
General Motors’ BrightDrop EV600 will mark the first use of the carmaker’s Ultium battery system in a commercial vehicle. The electric van is estimated to have a driving range of 250 miles (402 km) on a full charge and a peak charge rate of up to 170 miles (273 km) of EV range per hour via 120kW DC fast charging. The EV600 offers over 600 cubic feet (16,990 liters) of cargo area and a GVWR of less than 10,000 pounds (4,536 kg).
GM's rush to establish a foothold in this segment is understandable, as the automaker estimates the U.S. market for parcel and food delivery vehicles will exceed $850 billion by 2025.