Nov 20, 2020 - Energy & Environment

GM aims to take on Tesla with electric vehicle push

An electric car zooming past other vehicles

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

General Motors announced Thursday that it is increasing its investment in electric vehicles and autonomous tech to $27 billion through 2025 — $7 billion more than prior plans — as it seeks a top global position.

Why it matters: It's the clearest sign yet that GM is hoping to challenge Tesla, which dominates U.S. electric vehicle sales. It was already on, but now the competition for the electric vehicle market of the future is really on.

  • "[Electric vehicles] are core to creating GM's shareholder value," CEO Mary Barra told a Barclays investor conference, touting the goal of "mass consumer adoption."
  • As Bloomberg points out, Barra's making a "calculated gamble that car buyers are ready to make the switch to plug-in models."
  • But that's still a gamble, and other legacy automakers, notably VW, are also devoting lots of resources to electrification, while lots of new startups are circling too.

What they're saying: The presentation says GM intends to have the highest North American electric vehicle market share.

  • "We want to lead in this space. We don’t want to just participate," Doug Parks, a top product development official, told reporters while acknowledging "Tesla’s got a good jump."

The intrigue: GM said the $27 billion exceeds planned production and development spending for gasoline and diesel vehicles.

That's an interesting inflection point when you consider that electric vehicles are still a tiny slice of U.S. sales (roughly 2%) and still a very small part of the overall global market.

How it works: GM now plans to roll out 30 all-electric models by 2025 (with two-thirds available in the U.S.), compared to prior plans for 20 by 2023.

  • And not just halo vehicles — a presentation at the Barclays conference says they're planning "several key high-volume entries" by 2023.
  • GM says the vehicles will cover a wide range of price points — including models under $35,000 in addition to expensive rides like the electric GMC Hummer.
  • The faster development and rollout now includes plans to launch the Cadillac Lyriq in early 2022, nine months faster than the prior schedule.
  • Overall, GM said it's speeding up the timeline for 12 vehicles. The GMC Hummer, four Chevys including a pickup and small crossover, and several other Cadillacs are on that list.
  • GM also said the range of its Ultium battery propulsion system that underpins its new electric vehicles will reach 450 miles, up from 400.
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