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GM CEO Mary Barra says the company will need to relocate workers to keep them in the family as part of its long-term vision for an electric, self-driving future. "I want to make sure this company is not around for the next five years but the next 50 and beyond," Barra tells "Axios on HBO."

Why it matters: With contentious labor talks looming this summer, Barra's challenge is to convince longtime autoworkers that her plan to divert resources toward unproven future technologies won't put their livelihoods at risk.

The big picture: After more than 100 years, automobiles are shifting away from gasoline, steering wheels and personal ownership.

  • It's a perilous transformation for an iconic company like GM, which needs to keep pumping out profitable trucks and SUVs so it has the capital to keep pace on innovation with new competitors like Tesla and Google.

But it's a painful transition that is already affecting thousands of American jobs.

  • Last November, GM let go of 15% of its white-collar workers, about 8,000 people, even as its Cruise self-driving unit in Silicon Valley is doubling its software and engineering staff to 2,000.
  • About 6,000 factory jobs were also cut, as GM said it would halt production at three car assembly plants and two transmission factories in the U.S. and Canada.
  • The actions drew angry tweets from President Trump, who complained "The U.S. saved General Motors and this is the THANKS we get!", a reference to the $50 billion government bailout of GM in 2009 during the depths of the economic crisis.
  • The UAW filed a federal lawsuit against GM, which is pending.

Yes, but: Lost amid the headlines, Barra says, is that GM took the actions when the economy is strong and most of those factory workers have been offered jobs in other GM plants.

  • "Sometimes it's up the road or down the highway, and some are a little bit longer move. But we want every GM employee to stay with us. In some cases it's a different location."
  • GM is in talks to sell its Lordstown, Ohio, factory to Workhorse Group, a startup that makes electric trucks for customers such as UPS, DHL and, potentially, the U.S. Postal Service. The UAW worries the deal wouldn't provide the same job security to union workers.

What to watch: GM is shifting its entire vehicle lineup to electricity, which means instead of gasoline-powered engines and transmissions, it will need to produce more battery packs and electric drivetrains.

  • GM says it will introduce 20 new electric vehicles by 2023. Many of those will be built and sold in China, where GM is a major player and the government is aggressively pushing EVs.
  • "But there's a very robust plan for the United States as well. So there'll be more opportunities as we move forward," says Barra.
  • So far, GM has only announced one: a new Chevrolet EV that will be built in Michigan, attracting $300 million in investment and 400 new jobs.

The bottom line: It's a glimmer of hope for a union that has been decimated by globalization and technology transformation for decades. "We have to be prepared for the future. We can't pretend it's not coming," says Barra.

Go deeper

Updated 4 hours ago - Sports

The potential GOAT of chess faces intriguing challenger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The World Chess Championship between Norway's Magnus Carlsen and Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi began on Friday, 1,094 days after Carlsen won his fourth consecutive title.

Why it matters: During the long, COVID-fueled layoff, chess entered a new era, and with the championship finally here, the age-old game is ready for its close-up.

Department of Interior proposes raising cost of drilling on public lands

A horizontal drilling rig and a pump jack sit on federal land in Lea County, New Mexico. Photo: Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Oil and gas companies should pay more to drill on federal lands and waters, the Department of the Interior argued in a report released Friday, saying that the current rates were "outdated."

Driving the news: The Department of Interior report said that the federal government's oil and gas leasing and permitting program "fails to provide a fair return to taxpayers, even before factoring in the resulting climate-related costs that must be borne by taxpayers."

5 hours ago - Health

U.S. to restrict air travel from 8 countries over new COVID variant concerns

A COVID-19 vaccine is administered. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The U.S. will impose new air travel restrictions in response to the Omicron variant, a new COVID strain first detected in South Africa, President Biden announced Friday.

The big picture: Air travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi will be restricted starting on Monday.

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