VW plans US site for electric pickups, says Exec
A key Volkswagen of America executive said the automaker is evaluating a site in the United States for an assembly plant to build electric pickup trucks.
“We have a lot of growth potential, so we are looking for sites for a new van and battery factory. It would be an electric pickup truck,” said Inga Von Seelen, Senior Vice President of Procurement for VWoA, at the Center for Automotive Research’s annual management briefing seminars in Traverse City, MI.
“Overall, I still see market growth. We, with our Audi, Porsche and Volkswagen brands, have huge potential in the United States, says Von Seelen, who offers no timeline for site selection.
Von Seelen’s remarks come during a panel discussion titled “Supplier Relations: Finding Success Amid Risk and Scarcity.” She says VW is grappling with issues such as labor, inflation, access to critical materials and logistical issues faced by suppliers the automaker does business with.
Robert Young, Toyota Motor North America group vice president of purchasing and supplier development, thanks the automaker’s suppliers for making the most of a difficult situation in recent years as the industry faces a major transition with the push for electric vehicles.
Toyota expects to ‘locate’ more production to North America, Young (photo, left) said. The automaker is building a battery plant in North Carolina, but the necessary supply chain doesn’t really exist yet, he says.
Finding labor is a problem for suppliers, Young says, citing signs outside McDonald’s offering $21 an hour for help in Traverse City. “We’ve seen a lot of vendors hitting the labor wall,” he says.
“An obvious challenge is the raw material,” adds Von Seelen. “The cost of energy is also an issue, and the Volkswagen Group is trying to stay ahead of the myriad financial challenges facing Tier 1, 2 and 3 suppliers with more transparency and better communication. .”
When it comes to electric vehicles, there are “a lot of new faces” with good ideas about software, recycling and data, Von Seelen says. “We have to find a business case we can live with.”
Bernard Swiecki, CAR’s director of research, notes that the auto industry is investing heavily in electric vehicles, but electric vehicle suppliers don’t need to specialize in automobiles.
Pat D’Eramo, CEO of Martinrea International, says, “We are a stamper (of chassis, body and other metal components) and a welder. It was two or three very difficult years. Every week we have a tier 2 or 3 supplier going bankrupt in Europe.
“Everyone recognizes that EV volumes are at risk,” he says. “We cannot invest in all electric vehicles. You have to decide which ones you think will be the winners.
Suppliers would not necessarily benefit from a boom in electric vehicle sales that would strain capacity and exacerbate a tight labor market. A period of stable schedules and moderate growth would benefit everyone, says D’Eramo.
“I think there will be fewer suppliers (because of) consolidations,” says the CEO. “But I think it will be the same supply base that we have today.”