The leader of GM Defense hopes that a $214 million contract to build hundreds of U.S. Army troop transports is just the beginning deals for General Motors’ military-focused business unit.
It’s GM’s first major military production contract in decades, though the company has dabbled in relatively small research projects, like building a hydrogen-fuel-cell-powered Chevy truck for the Army.
“This is really a cornerstone program for us,” GM Defense President David Albritton said in an interview on Monday.
The $214 million contract will purchase 649 Army Infantry Squad Vehicles. The deal has options for up to 1,070 vehicles, Albritton said. The service may eventually buy up to 2,065 vehicles in all.
Some of the initial vehicles will be built at a GM facility in Milford, Michigan, but could then transfer to another factory. “We have yet to make a final determination on where we’re going to do the full production,” Albritton said.
GM Defense’s vehicle is based on the Chevy Colorado ZR2 pickup truck. The vehicles are designed for airlift aboard Chinook helicopters or sling loaded from a Black Hawk. The 82nd Airborne is expected to receive vehicles in the “next winter,” the Army said in a statement.
The Army chose GM Defense — which bid with Ricardo Defense — over an Oshkosh Defense-Flyer Defense team and an SAIC-Polaris team.
With the Army contract now under its belt, the GM Defense plans to “explore additional opportunities with potential customers here in the U.S., but also look internationally for this platform as well,” Albritton said. “So that’s one of the things that we’re going to be focusing on over the next few months.”
That 2016 hydrogen-powered truck marked GM’s public returned to the defense market. Two years later, the automaker launched GM Defense as a standalone business. All along, executives have said they want to disrupt the military truck market by using the commercial development and innovation skills of one of Detroit’s big three auto manufacturers.
Now the company’s eying more military business, including building or supplying technology for the Army’s Joint Tactical Vehicles. Service officials want to hold a competition for the next tranche in 2022. Oshkosh builds the current JLTV, for which GM makes the Duramax diesel engine.
GM also sees a role for its technology on Marine Corps vehicle projects.
“Between the light and medium-sized ground platforms, we believe that we have the ability to either be a prime [contractor] on some of those programs or partner appropriately to compete,” Albritton said. “We’re looking at options across the board for those programs.”
The company is also pitching its technology, such as hybrid diesel engines and electric fuel cells, to other vehicle makers.
“Over the next couple of years, you’re going to start seeing, in the commercial marketplace, a lot more battery electric vehicles,” Albritton said.
In 2022, GMC is planning to launch Hummer, an electric pickup truck that boasts up to a 1,000-horsepower engine.
“It’ll be a full-size, big pickup truck that will have 400 miles of range,” Albritton said. “You think about the capability of an all-electric, 1,000-foot-pounds of torque on a platform that goes 400 miles, and that provides anybody with a lot of options.”