Oct 21, 2020 - Economy

GM dives full-throttle into electric

GMC Hummer EV. Photo courtesy of General Motors

GMC Hummer EV. Photo courtesy of General Motors

What has LeBron James as a pitchman, some slightly awkward promotional phrasing ("watts to freedom"), and a six-figure starting price? The electric GMC Hummer.

Driving the news: General Motors unveiled the vehicle — a reborn version of the deceased mega-guzzler — with a highly produced rollout Tuesday night that included a World Series spot. The company also began taking reservations.

The big picture: The rollout was GM's second EV announcement Tuesday.

  • Hours earlier, it unveiled plans to invest $2 billion to renovate a Tennessee factory near Nashville for electric vehicle production, starting with the Cadillac Lyriq in 2022.

Why it matters: The back-to-back announcements show how GM is pushing in its chips on EVs, even though they're still a small market.

  • The Tennessee plant will become GM's third U.S. manufacturing site for EVs in a bet-the-company pivot away from conventional gasoline-powered cars and trucks, notes Axios' Joann Muller.
  • GM plans to unveil at least 20 new EVs globally by 2023 (including the Hummer). Since March 2019, GM has pledged to invest $4.5 billion for EV production in the U.S.

Where it stands: Getting back to the Hummer, here are a few specs and features on what GM is calling the "ultimate off-road EV supertruck."

  • The tri-motor, four-wheel-drive system has 1,000 horsepower, and you can engage the "watts to freedom" propulsion system that provides a 0-60 mph time of roughly 3 seconds, if you're into that kind of thing.
  • There's an estimated 350+ miles of range on a full charge, and the capacity to quickly charge to about 100 miles in 10 minutes.
  • It also has the off-road "CrabWalk" feature that enables diagonal movement (which Axios covered in this edition of Generate).
  • Availability of "Extract Mode" that raises the suspension 6 inches to help with "extreme off-road situations such as clearing boulders or fording water."

By the numbers:  Initial production at GM's Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Center begins late next year for the 2022 model, which starts at $112,595.

  • Less pricey versions start arriving later, with a roughly $100,000 model available in late 2022, a $90,000 version in spring of 2023, and a $80,000 version a year later.

What we don't know: How much the suite of electric pickups en route — from Rivian, Tesla, Ford and others — will help electricity start competing with gas in the immensely popular pickup market.

  • But GM has other motivations — even a pricey beast that won't sell in big numbers helps to show that they're serious about EVs, even for their core pickup business, Joann points out.

Edmunds' senior manager Ivan Drury sees a mix of potential and pitfalls in the Hummer rollout.

  • He said that by showing that "big" doesn't mean inefficient, the Hummer is a "paradigm shift" that benefits GM and will "help push consumer acceptance of EVs into a new realm."
  • Drury also said the tech-stuffed vehicle allows GM to show off features that will "trickle down through its lineup."

Yes, but: Drury, in comments circulated to reporters, notes that the first wave of EV pickups from various automakers are quite pricey, and that's just one thing that could hinder consumer buy-in.

"Options and considerations will be different from what consumers might be accustomed to when shopping for a traditional truck, some of the styling can be highly polarizing, and real-world functionality has yet to be proven."
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