GM acquires gigacasting company in potential blow to Tesla
GM will leverage TEI tech to build Cadillac EVs as legacy OEMs look to catch up on gigacasting
Detroit legacy manufacturer GM has acquired Tooling and Equipment International (TEI), a Michigan-based metallurgical company which has pioneered Tesla’s gigacasting manufacturing.
GM now looks set to leverage the expertise of TEI to catalyse cost advantages on vehicle bodies from which Tesla has historically benefitted. And GM tells EV inFocus that the firm’s EVs are first in line to be manufactured using the technology.
TEI describes itself as “a global leader in the design, engineering and manufacturing of prototype, pre-production and mass production equipment for the casting industry”. “TEI will remain its own business entity with GM as its parent company,” GM says.
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But, even with this operational independence, it remains to seen if TEI will be able to continuing doing business with GM rival Tesla, or if the EV market leader may now have to look elsewhere to other casting companies with which it has previously worked to continue its own gigacasting operations.
“GM acquired TEI to bolster its portfolio of innovations and secure access to unique casting technology. Bringing TEI into the GM enterprise builds on decades of the company’s own casting experience and provides a competitive advantage with strategic castings for future low volume products like the Cadillac Celestiq,” GM tells EV inFocus.
The Celestiq is an upcoming large electric sedan expected to be available in 2024. But GM will not unlock the cost advantages available to Tesla through gigacasting until it can manufacture its high-volume EVs with the tech.
Gigacasting is a manufacturing process in which presses capable of up to 9,000 tons of pressure to mould vehicle bodies in a clamping movement. Consultancy S&P Global says “done correctly, gigacasting can theoretically slash per-unit manufacturing costs by eliminating the welding of dozens of body parts by casting one single module”.
It is therefore no great surprise that legacy OEMs are trying to get into the gigacasting game, especially since GM’s EVs need all the potential cost savings the company can generate. Fellow Detroit automaker Ford reportedly placed orders with Italian gigacasting firm Idra in October.
Idra has also signed a contract with Sweden’s Volvo Cars to install two 9,000-ton gigapress machines at the OEM’s site in Slovakia. “These state-of-the-art machines are set to revolutionise the automotive manufacturing industry and position the brand’s new plant in Kosice as a strategic hub for gigacasting,” Idra says.