General Motors (GM) is going all-electric, but the transition hasn’t happened as quickly as many anticipated. The automaker is overcoming supply chain hurdles as it ramps up EV production. With several high-volume EVs launching, GM’s CEO Mary Barra believes “it will be dramatically different” next year. But will it be enough to surpass Tesla?
In an interview with NBC News’ Rebecca Blumenstein at the Aspen Ideas Festival this week, Barra discussed the automaker’s future as the leader transitions the company to go all-electric by 2035.
Barra said that setting a date to go all-electric (passenger vehicles) stopped the internal debate around when and shifted things to how to get it done. Shortly after, GM’s leader said she was confident the automaker would catch up to and surpass Tesla to become the top EV seller in the US.
After producing just over 39,000 fully electric vehicles last year compared to Tesla’s 1.4 million, GM’s goal seems like it’s getting out of reach.
When asked why production isn’t higher, Barra explained the automaker’s move from the Volt to the second-generation Bolt EV and EUV. Although the Bolt has become a top-selling electric car in the US as one of the most affordable options, it was an ICE vehicle modified to become electric.
In turn, the Bolt’s limited range and performance led GM to develop a dedicated EV platform, Ultium. Despite launching the first Ultium-based vehicle, the Hummer EV pickup, in late 2021, the automaker sold a total of two in the first three months of 2023.
Ramping electric vehicle production
Battery production is currently holding GM back. As Barra explains, the company has plans for four EV battery plants in the US.
The first plant, a 2.8 million sq ft facility in Warren, Ohio, began producing battery cells last September and is now “running really well.” GM’s other three will be in Tennessee, Michigan, and Indiana.
The ramp-up is constraining its Ultium-based vehicles, such as Hummer EV and upcoming Silverado EV, Blazer EV, and Equinox EV, all due out by the end of the year.
GM’s leader says as the facilities come online, it will support the automaker’s target of producing 400,000 EVs by the middle of next year and one million in 2025.
GM catching Tesla in sales, potential Bolt EV successor?
When asked if she still believes GM will catch Tesla while maintaining its leadership role in the US auto industry, Barra said the automaker has “sold more vehicles in the US” and knows its customers well and what they are looking for out of an EV.
As part of GM’s “EVs for everyone” strategy, GM is not concerned with replicating its ICE portfolio. Instead, it’s being strategic with affordable options, luxury models, pickups, SUVs, and more.
After GM announced plans to discontinue the Bolt EV later this year, many wondered what would take its place. Will we see an Utlium-based EV? Barra teased a next-gen model by saying:
It’s a very important vehicle in our lineup, so you will have to wait and see what we end up doing.
This is now the second time Barra has teased the idea of an Ultium-based Bolt EV.
After adopting Tesla’s NACS connector earlier this month, Barra explained the company wanted to offer customers the best possible experience. GM chose NACS because it provides better durability and reliability at a lower cost, as Barra said:
Anytime you make a decision from a customer perspective and you’re not choosing the most cost-effective, better solution, you do that at your own peril.
Instead of having 13,000 chargers across the US, GM will now have 25,000, which will help support EV adoption.
Barra says she sees Elon Musk as both a partner and competitor after the NACS deal. She said the decision was the right one for everyone as several other OEMs have also moved toward the standard. You can watch the full interview below.
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