LG Chem, the battery supplier for the Chevrolet Bolt, operates an EV battery plant in Michigan. It also has factories in South Korea, China and Poland.
Going from a supplier relationship to a joint venture will better position GM to "win in the electric vehicle space," Barra said. "I see this as a critical juncture in our goal and our path to create an all-electric future."
EVs have to be affordable, profitable and convenient, and they have to have the right range, she added.
LG Chem brings the chemistry and battery cell know-how, while GM has high-volume manufacturing expertise, Shilpan Amin, whom GM promoted last month to vice president of purchasing and supply chain, told Automotive News.
"In this evolution of technology, we've got to jointly figure out how do we become the most efficient at spending our resources to enable the technology to come to the table," Amin said. "This is one demonstration of the path we're on and the value of those relationships we have with our suppliers."
There's familiarity between GM and LG Chem. Denise Gray, CEO of LG Chem's North American subsidiary, spent three decades at GM. She led its efforts to develop battery technology for the Chevy Volt.
Last month, before the joint venture was announced, Gray noted a change in the undercurrents of the auto industry's need for batteries, one that has seen a shift from projected to realized demand.
"We're into that segment of time where the demand is there from our customers, and they're assuming that their customers are actually going to buy these vehicles," she told Automotive News. "So we've seen a step-change in demand, which means we have to work extremely fast, hard, effective, in designing batteries and also building the capacity around the world to be able to meet that demand."
Pete Bigelow contributed to this report.