General Motors CEO Mary Barra sees a brighter future for 2023 that includes sold-out electric vehicles, a greater supply of vehicles with internal combustion engines, and production of self-driving cars. The industry will not be back to its rosiest of times, but Barra uses an Automotive Press Association talk in Detroit to paint a cautiously optimistic view of the future.
Orders are strong for the Cadillac Lyriq which has begun deliveries, while the 2024 Chevrolet Silverado EV coming next year is already sold out for the first model year. About 40 percent of the automaker's new EV buyers are buying their first GM product. Consumers are also going online to order the Chevrolet Equinox EV. The 2024 GMC Sierra electric pickup, Chevrolet Blazer, and other unnamed electric vehicles also are coming to market next year, says the CEO who drives a Chevrolet Bolt and also owns a GMC Hummer EV. "You get used to not going to a gas station," Barra quipped.
Despite concerns of an economic downturn, GM is still seeing strong demand for vehicles and high average transaction prices, Barra says. The automaker has set a budget that is conservative on the cost side, but not so conservative that GM cannot jump on opportunities as they arrive, like electric boats or the growth of the BrightDrop electric commercial vehicle business, the CEO says.
GM will announce the location of a fourth joint-venture battery production plant in the not-too-distant future, Barra says. Making its own battery cells is key for GM to control, and reduce, the cost of EVs going forward.
Credit GM for Barra's Smile
With contract talks looming next year and the UAW eying battery plants to unionize, Barra shoots down the idea that unionized labor necessarily directly adds to cost. And she knows, personally, the benefits of decent wages and benefits for workers—her father worked at a former Pontiac plant. "I always say my teeth are straight because my dad worked for GM."
At Factory Zero in Hamtramck, GM will begin production of the Cruise Origin in 2023, a driverless and pod-like robotaxi. While competitors such as Ford are pulling back on autonomous vehicles—Ford and Volkswagen are winding down Argo AI—Barra remains bullish on Cruise and its growth plans.
Modified Chevy Bolts are already available to be hailed as robotaxis in San Francisco and they will become available in Austin and Phoenix in a few months. Barra says GM got into the AV business early and will continue to press its advantage and goals. The business plan remains on track; she still expects autonomous vehicles to generate $58 billion in annual revenue by 2035.
Leading the Software-Defined Vehicle
The other competitive area is the software-defined vehicle. GM's 25 years of experience with OnStar provided a head start on vehicle-integrated tech and work is now centered on the Ultify software platform for all GM brands. GM does not see a need to split the company into old-school ICE engineering and newer EV vehicles.
In 2018, GM already started pulling software and hardware engineers together as one team. And as mechanical engineers retired, they were replaced with new talent software engineers in what Barra describes as a seamless transition. She is also seeing an uptick in software engineers who want to work for GM.
The semiconductor chip crisis taught GM to take greater control of critical components in the supply chain. To ensure GM can meet its commitment to sell a million EVs annually by 2025, the automaker has agreements with suppliers of key materials and components. The team is now focused on securing the supplies it needs for volume anticipated from 2026-2030.
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