GM's BrightDrop signs first customer in Canada, unveils country's first large EV factory

Ontario Premier Doug Ford sits behind the wheel of EV600 during the opening of automaker General Motors (GM) Brightdrop unit's CAMI EV Assembly, Canada's first full-scale electric vehicle manufacturing plant, in Ingersoll, Ontario, Canada December 5, 2022. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio

(Reuters) -The first electric delivery trucks rolled off production lines at BrightDrop's new factory in Canada on Monday, when the upstart unit of General Motors Co also announced DHL Express Canada as its first customer outside the United States.

GM spent seven months and more than $2 billion transforming its 2 million-square-foot CAMI Assembly plant in Ingersoll, Ontario, into Canada's first large-scale electric vehicle (EV) factory for BrightDrop Zevo delivery trucks. Before the switch, the site manufactured the gasoline-powered Chevy Equinox.

Opening the retooled plant "is a major step to providing EVs at scale," BrightDrop Chief Executive Travis Katz told Reuters prior to the event. He expects the facility to turn out 50,000 Zevo electric vans annually by 2025.

Its debut comes as GM's fast-growing commercial EV unit races rivals including Ford Motor Co, Rivian Automotive Inc, Stellantis and Arrival for dominance in the electric delivery truck market.

BrightDrop's relationship with GM gives it manufacturing and financial heft that several of its rival EV startups lack, experts said.

"That allows us to go faster," Katz said.

BrightDrop launched in 2021 and is forecast to reap its first $1 billion in sales next year, said Katz, who added that it took Tesla Inc a decade to hit the same milestone.

BrightDrop previously made vans in a temporary factory in Michigan. It already has delivered 150 electric trucks to package carrier FedEx Corp. The company's other U.S. customers include retailer Walmart Inc and communications provider Verizon Communications Inc.

Those companies and many others have set goals to replace gas-burning delivery trucks and service vehicles with zero-emissions alternatives over time.

DHL Express Canada's new relationship with BrightDrop "will help bring us closer to that target," CEO Andrew Williams said.

(Reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los AngelesEditing by Matthew Lewis)

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