GM Wants to make it a Race with Tesla

March 6, 2020


General Motors wants to make it a two-horse race between itself and Tesla with its next generation of all-electric vehicles starting next year.

The Detroit automaker during an “EV Day” on Wednesday provided unprecedented details about its plans, including unveiling about a dozen of its upcoming products and announcing spending of more than $20 billion over the next five years on all-electric and autonomous vehicles.

“We thought it was time for people to understand that General Motors has a leadership position in electrification and we’re moving fast,” GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra told reporters.

GM shares closed Thursday down 3.4% to $30.10, which more than wiped out their gain Wednesday, when they closed up 3.3% at $31.53. The company’s stock is down more than 23% in the past year, including a slide of about 18% so far this year.

The event was meant to woo Wall Street into buying into the automaker’s all-electric vehicle plans, but some took away another message as well: GM has Tesla in its crosshairs more than ever.

“We believe the event was a clear shot across the bow against (Tesla CEO Elon) Musk and Tesla which continue to lead the EV landscape by a clear margin,” Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives wrote in a note to investors Wednesday.

GM said its new all-electric vehicles will be capable of 400 miles or more, charge more than 100 miles in 10 minutes and accelerate 0 to 60 mph in as low as three seconds. The performance specifications are all in line or better than Tesla’s current vehicles.

Tesla’s Model 3 is capable of 322 miles of range, 0 to 60 mph in 3.2 seconds and recharge of 172 miles in 15 minutes.

Ives cited GM’s new proprietary “Ultium” battery-cell technology, which can be stacked inside the battery pack either horizontally or vertically, as a “highlight of the event” to compare to Tesla’s vertical cylinder cells.

“Our thoughts for Tesla. GM, given its vast distribution and global customer base, must be taken seriously in this EV arms race,” Ives said, adding GM’s plans are “markedly more aggressive” than in recent years.

Motor Trend:

GM has partnered with LG Chem to make proprietary Ultium-branded battery cells for its electric vehicles; they’ll be produced at a former GM car plant in Lordstown, Ohio. GM says the pouch-style Ultium cells are unique because they can be stacked vertically or horizontally inside the battery pack and thus be tailored to each vehicle’s layout. In terms of energy, the overall battery packs range from 50 to 200 kWh, the latter of which would provide range of up to 400 miles. They’re designed for Level 2 and DC fast-charging. While most vehicles will have 400-volt battery packs and up to 250-kW fast-charging capability, the trucks will have 800-volt packs and 350 kW fast-charging. To date only Porsche’s Taycan is designed to use 800-volt packs.

The goal is to reduce the cost of the cells to less than $100 per kWh early in the platform’s lifecycle and drastically reduce the overall cost of electric vehicles. Honda is also working with GM and LG Chem to develop an advanced battery that is smaller and more power dense. The whole industry is working on a breakthrough in batteries to reduce cost while extending vehicle range.

The General has no plans to abandon profitable conventional trucks and SUVs or to neglect any of its brands. But Barra is clear: The future is electric and the majority of the company’s resources have been shifted to this work. GM will spend more on electric vehicles over the next five years than it will invest in gasoline-powered vehicles. GM is allocating more than $20 billion in capital and engineering resources to its electric- and autonomous-vehicle programs. The plan is to be selling a million EVs a year in North America and China by mid-decade.

All this while being profitable and maintaining margins. “That’s our job,” Barra says.

So far Wall Street has not shown GM much love for its EV efforts, and Tesla remains the darling. Tesla has a market-cap value more than three times that of GM despite its spotty earnings and much smaller total volumes. Even so, Tesla is the electric-vehicle sales leader, moving 367,500 EVs globally in 2019. In comparison, GM sold 16,400 Chevrolet Bolt EVs in the U.S. and another 60,000 electric vehicles in China. Electric-vehicle sales in the U.S. are forecast to more than double from 2025 to 2030, reaching about 3 million units annually.

GM is also working to make charging easier for consumers, especially at home and work. The automaker is adding 3,500 new EV charging plugs for employees in the U.S. and Canada, starting later this year. GM research shows 900,000 of an estimated 1 million total EV drivers are not able to charge their vehicles at work.

4 Responses to “GM Wants to make it a Race with Tesla”

  1. Gingerbaker Says:

    Time will tell.

    VW was talking big too. Now delays. Weird how the internet didn’t explode, right?

  2. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    As I recall, when Musk started Tesla he said it was because he wanted the world to start driving EVs, and he was hoping to goad more of the traditional car makers to start producing them. To that end, he put a lot of their patents in the public domain.

    • Gingerbaker Says:

      The goal of the electrification of the transportation sector is, IIRC, an actual official part of the company’s Mission statement.

  3. dumboldguy Says:

    Tesla is as much a cult as a marketing entity. EV’s are still on the cusp of a breakthrough, and as has been said by GB—“time will tell”.

    As long as Musk insists on being a “personality”—-digging tunnels, smoking dope in public, going to Mars, and introducing a pickup whose design is based on “cultishness” rather than common sense—-he makes Tesla vulnerable to competition.

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