Detroit Free Press: Marick Masters on automaker transition to EVs

At General Motors Arlington Assembly plant in Texas, many of the 5,000 hourly workers worry about their job security even as they work long hours pushing out thousands of vehicles a week to meet robust consumer demand. GM builds the Cadillac Escalade, GMC Yukon, Chevrolet Tahoe and Chevrolet Suburban full-size SUVs at Arlington. All of those trucks are propelled by gasoline, and they are all hot — for now. But in 15 years or sooner, these gasoline-fueled top-sellers will be obsolete. In fact, by 2030, GM said Cadillac will offer only electric vehicles, leaving many of Arlington's hourly workers haunted by the vexing question: Which plant will get to build the electric Escalade as GM phases out the internal combustion model? About 35,000 hourly jobs could perish across the car industry as GM and other automakers move to EVs, said Marick Masters, a Wayne State University business professor who specializes in labor issues and has studied the potential impact of transitioning to EVs. GM has said all of its light-duty vehicles will be zero-emissions by 2035 and that GM will be a carbon neutral company by 2040. The typical internal combustion engine has about 2,000 parts in it, Masters said. Whereas EVs use far fewer parts, some parts might be bigger such as batteries, but fewer people are needed overall to make EVs. "There will be some job loss," Masters said. "The question is how much of that can be mitigated?" If the move to EVs is accelerated by politicians pushing to control climate change and improve infrastructure with more charging stations, that will only hasten the “dislocation of jobs," Masters said. “I think anybody has reason to be worried," Masters said. "You also have to factor in how popular are electric vehicles going to be to foreign competitors, what is the cost to make them, how profitable will they be versus internal combustion ... all of that impacts the performance of the company and that will impact jobs, too.”

Full story on Detroit Free Press

View all news stories