In an apparent bid to use Tesla’s EV development and production streamlining process involving large monolithic body castings, GM has acquired TEI (Tooling & Equipment International), which up until now has produced “gigacastings” for Tesla vehicles.
Unnamed sources familiar with the matter peg the acquisition cost at $80 million to $100 million according to Reuters, though neither GM nor TEI has confirmed the figure.
TEI combined 3D printing and sand casting to produce large one-piece automotive castings, typically combining the vehicle’s subframes and platform into a single continuous piece. Other components are then slotted into this body casting to build up and complete the vehicle. While Tesla calls these large monolithic castings “gigacastings,” GM has dubbed them “megacastings.”
The technique offers both significant cost savings in production and the possibility of rapid prototyping, halving the development cycle to 1.5 to 2 years rather than the previously typical 3 to 4 years. It is TEI’s expertise that underpins Tesla’s success in rapidly developing the Model Y, Model 3, Cybertruck, and Tesla Semi.
GM now apparently wants to gain the benefits of TEI’s sandcasting methods for its own development and production. First on the menu for production using the services of its new acquisition is the Cadillac Celestiq, the GM EV flagship that carries a starting MSRP of $340,000. TEI already supplied six castings for the vehicle, including shock towers and the EV’s underbody. This reduced the number of components needed for assembly by 180 to 240 parts by the automaker’s estimate.
TEI has set about building a new Cadillac Celestiq production line at its plant in Livonia, Michigan. The General says its acquisition of the sandcasting enterprise “builds on decades of the company’s own casting experience.” Its statement added that having TEI as its subsidiary will create “a competitive advantage with strategic castings for future low volume products like the Cadillac Celestiq.”
Meanwhile, Tesla has been deprived of its main sandcasting supplier just as it embarks on its push to mass-produce millions of affordable EVs with a starting price of around $25,000. Elon Musk’s company no longer has a domestic “gigacasting” partner and instead must rely on three overseas companies in Germany, Japan, and the U.K. for its castings, at least for the time being.
Going forward, TEI will fall under the umbrella of The General’s Global Manufacturing division, though it will remain a separate business operation. The American Foundry Society earlier recognized its Celestiq megacasting as the 2023 Casting of the Year.