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The impact of electric vehicle manufacturing on Toledo's auto industry

Switching to electric manufacturing is predicted to reduce the size of the auto industry by 30%. But Toledo's GM plant says they won't be downsized.

TOLEDO, Ohio — UAW Local 14 president Tony Totty says President Joe Biden's visit to GM's Zero plant in Detroit is the first step toward an all-electric future. 

"It's the way the industry is going," Totty said. "General Motors and Ford both said by 2035 they want to go all-electric, and this is the first shift to that."

While Toledo's GM Powertrain Plant currently only produces transmissions for gas-powered vehicles, Totty says in the next few years they will begin to make electric motors.

"We'll shift into it, it's not going to happen overnight. We have new lines we just received and we're looking for more to continue making transmissions but also shift into electric as well," Totty explained.

However, this change is making employees nervous.

"It's a little scary, because we know that it takes only 70% of the workforce we have today to produce electric vehicles across the industry," said Totty.

Totty says manufacturing electric vehicles requires more machinary and fewer workers, meaning not every factory will be able to stay open. However, he believes Toledo is uniquely positioned.

"It's our workforce. I'll put them against anybody when it comes to quality work," Totty said, "and they do it safely, and great productivity. We've always answered any demand the corporation had for us and we look forward to do that in the future."

Joe Mahling, the executive manager of Dave White Chevrolet, says the workers at UAW local 14 can breathe easier knowing that on the sales floor, the demand for electric vehicles is still niche.

"Oh it's 90/10 gas," Mahling said. "It's not even close yet, because there aren't even that many options out there yet."

So while the future may be electric, present trends still have more gas left in the tank.

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