GM to spend $30 million on Volt battery plant

DETROIT Tue Jan 20, 2009 2:04pm EST

A plug is seen coming from the Chevrolet Volt electric car during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan January 13, 2009. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

A plug is seen coming from the Chevrolet Volt electric car during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan January 13, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Mark Blinch

DETROIT (Reuters) - General Motors Corp will invest $30 million in its planned U.S. plant that will build next-generation batteries for its all-electric Chevrolet Volt, the head of GM's flagship Chevrolet brand said on Tuesday.

The facility, scheduled to open in Michigan in 2010, will assemble lithium-ion battery cells manufactured by South Korea's LG Chem Ltd into 400-pound packs, which will power the heavily touted Volt plug-in car.

"We chose Chevy because we can't be niche with the Volt. We have to make it a mass-production vehicle," Ed Peper, North American vice president of GM's Chevrolet brand, said at the Automotive News World Congress in Detroit.

The Volt, which is being designed to run 40 miles on a single battery charge, has become the centerpiece of GM's attempt to reinvent its product line at a time when sales remain at decade lows.

GM's sales dropped 23 percent in 2008 and the automaker came within days of running out of cash before the Bush administration approved its request in late December for $13.4 billion in emergency loans.

Peper said the lack of credit available to consumers has been very difficult and that the shift of GMAC, its main auto financing partner, to a bank holding status in late December was a "big boost" for the automaker.

"We are starting to see credit loosen up slightly, not that much yet, but it is particularly important at the low end of the market," Peper said.

(Reporting by Soyoung Kim and David Bailey, editing by Matthew Lewis)

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