GM CEO says commitment to all-electric fleet remains firm despite industry-wide sales slowdown

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General Motors CEO Mary Barra says the storied automaker’s plan to turn its fleet 100% electric will now play out ‘over decades.’

In an exclusive interview with NBC News, Barra clarified the company’s previously stated intention to eventually phase out gas-powered cars.

‘I wouldn’t say we’re recommitting,’ Barra said of the company’s pledge, first announced more than six years ago. ‘You know, we said back in 2018 that we’re committed to an all-electric future. But as we make this transformation, it’s going to happen over decades. And that’s why I couldn’t be more proud of our gas-powered fleet as well.’

In a statement after this article was published, a spokesperson for GM said the company is actually aiming to exclusively sell electric vehicles by 2035.

Barra’s remarks come amid a softening sales environment for electric vehicles in the U.S. In April, Cox Automotive reported that Kelley Blue Book data showed that the first quarter of 2024 saw the first quarter-over-quarter decline in EV sales since the pandemic and that sales were up just 3% year-on-year.

General Motors CEO Mary Barra.NBC News

Last spring, GM announced it was discontinuing its Chevy Bolt EV, which had previously made up the vast majority of the company’s electric vehicle sales, in favor of a new EV platform called Ultium that serves as the battery system across its remaining electric fleet.

Barra told NBC News that GM now has offerings for virtually any consumer preference, whether it’s gas or electric.

‘I want people to choose an EV because they love every aspect about it,’ she said. ‘And if it doesn’t fit their lifestyle, in that same showroom, we’ve got a great gas-powered vehicle that I think will meet their needs.’

Tesla continues to dominate EV sales in the U.S., and although it has gradually given up some market share, it continues to command 50% of EV purchases. Barra confirmed that GM-made EVs will have access to Tesla charging stations, as well as those managed by Pilot Flying J — something that will help alleviate concerns about EV charger availability.

Barra expressed hope that further expansion of the EV charging network will make choosing an electric vehicle easier for consumers.

GM has seen success in EVs for at least one its more recent models. Kelley Blue Book data reported by Cox showed about 1 out of every 6 Cadillac purchases is an electric vehicle — the most of any brand not focused entirely on EVs. Cadillac was also one of nine manufacturers that recorded more than 50% year-on-year growth in EV sales.

It’s indicative of the current trend in the electric vehicle market: They are becoming more popular at the higher end. Cox reported that Cadillac achieved an approximately 500% year-over-year increase in EV sales thanks to robust sales of its Lyriq crossover, which costs $58,590 to $63,190.

It stands in contrast to the Bolt, which was previously the most affordable EV on the market.  

Barra did not directly refer to the Bolt, but said EVs will have to become more affordable if widespread adoption is to occur.

‘Everyone has been talking about to really drive EV adoption, we’ve got to get to EVs that are affordable,’ she said. ‘And when you think this — we’re going to have a model out later this year that starts around $35,000. Then with the tax credit you think about $7,500. This is under $30,000.’

There are some limits to that $7,500 tax credit so closely associated with EV purchases. Receiving that credit depends on the buyer’s income and where the vehicle and its battery components were made. Certain models are excluded from the United States’ EV tax credit program. Those restrictions are part of the Biden administration’s effort to promote EV and battery components made in the U.S.

Former President Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, has expressed opposition to the Biden administration’s EV push, calling the effort ‘radical.’

Barra said a second Trump administration would not alter the company’s future plans.

‘We will be just committed because we think in the long term [EVs are] better,’ she said. ‘And even right now — I mean, get in an EV and drive it. It’s instant torque. You never have to go to the gas station, especially if you have at your home or where you live, whether it’s an apartment or your house, you have accessibility charging.’

She continued: ‘I think over the long term when we have a very robust charging infrastructure, people are going to choose EVs, because they’re better.’

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