In a strategic move aimed at catching up with electric vehicle (EV) pioneer Tesla, General Motors (GM) has quietly acquired Tooling & Equipment International (TEI), a company specializing in sand casting techniques integral to Tesla’s gigacasting process. The deal, largely unnoticed, underscores GM’s commitment to enhancing its manufacturing capabilities and cost-efficiency in the rapidly evolving automotive landscape.
For years, TEI played a crucial role in advancing Tesla’s gigacasting, a groundbreaking method for casting large body parts in a single piece, reducing production time and costs. However, with TEI now under GM’s umbrella, Tesla is compelled to rely on alternative casting specialists in Britain, Germany, and Japan for the development of molds crucial to its plans for mass-producing affordable EVs.
GM’s acquisition of TEI is part of a broader strategy to narrow the gap with Tesla, particularly as the latter races to introduce a $25,000 EV. By assimilating a specialist in sand casting, GM aims to accelerate its own efforts in efficient and cost-effective car production. In response to inquiries, GM highlighted the acquisition’s significance in bolstering its innovation portfolio and securing access to unique casting technology.
The move comes at a pivotal moment when automakers worldwide, including Ford, Hyundai, and Toyota, are striving to replicate Tesla’s gigacasting proficiency to match its design and manufacturing efficiency. Tesla’s gigacasting, a key component of CEO Elon Musk’s “unboxed” manufacturing strategy, involves creating a car’s structural platform and subframes in a single piece, contributing to significant cost reductions.
TEI’s contribution to Tesla’s gigacasting process dates back to around 2017, assisting in the development of models such as the Model Y, Model 3, Cybertruck, and the heavy-duty Semi truck. GM’s interest in TEI likely began in 2021 when the company engaged TEI for underbody castings in its high-end Cadillac Celestiq EV, set to debut in showrooms the following year.
While GM officially acquired TEI for an amount estimated to be less than $100 million, its real value lies in gaining insights into Tesla’s gigacasting expertise. TEI and other specialists use sand casting and 3D printing to create test molds quickly and cost-effectively, a process instrumental in Tesla’s ability to develop cars in 18 to 24 months compared to competitors’ longer timelines.
The acquisition not only strengthens GM’s casting expertise but also provides a front-row seat to Tesla’s manufacturing innovations. As Tesla reshapes industry standards, GM’s move signals a commitment to staying competitive in the rapidly evolving landscape of electric vehicles. The automotive industry’s pursuit of greater efficiency, epitomized by gigacasting, underscores the transformative impact of Tesla’s innovations and the ongoing quest for manufacturing excellence.