GM’s Mary Barra Confident Of Complete Consumer EV Conversion

Lingering concerns over charging and affordability are holding back many consumers from making the switch to battery electric vehicles. Making that big switch between traditional internal combustion engine cars and trucks to those powered by batteries is a big deal for a lot of consumers who cling to the convenience and familiarity of just popping over to the neighborhood filling station to refuel.

But during a session with reporters Thursday at a meeting of the Automotive Press Association in Detroit, General Motors chair and CEO Mary Barra said she isn’t buying the premise that some drivers will forever resist giving up the gas pump for a battery recharging station.

“Maybe a small fraction,” offered Barra. “There’s a lot of forces that are going to be driving people to electric vehicles. They’re fun to drive. They’re great vehicles. I’ve been driving a Bolt and then we own a Hummer and you get used to not going to the gas station really quickly. I think as it becomes more mainstream I challenge there’s people going to hold out.”

But right now, many are holding out. Sales of EVs remain a small part of the U.S. market.

According to the National Automobile Dealers Association, EVs accounted for just 5.1% of the U.S. market through the third quarter. However, the NADA noted, “During the third quarter of 2022, BEV sales by franchised dealerships surpassed 2021’s full year total when franchised dealerships sold just over 135,000 BEVs.” Consumer studies indicate EV sales are largely contingent on the price of gasoline, affordability compared to internal combustion engine vehicles and range anxiety.

The 2022 Electric Vehicle Insight Report released in November, which surveyed more than 2,000 U.S. vehicle owners on their attitudes towards EVs, revealed 56% said they’d consider one if gas prices reached $5.00 a gallon. Since spiking earlier this year, gas prices have fallen to an average of $3.329 a gallon according to the Triple A. There goes one stimulus to change.

When asked what they considered “the most convenient vehicle to own” only 17% cited an electric vehicle. Looking at other factors causing resistance to EVs, 40% said theydon’t provide value worth the higher costs, and 43% said they’d consider one if charging speed and range improved and there were more charging stations.

Barra concedes some consumers may hang onto their gasoline powered vehicles for awhile, but will ultimately make the switch, willingly.

“They might keep a vehicle for a long time. But then if you also look at the ’26 to ’30 and then beyond range and you look at the regulatory environment around the globe it’s gonna push you there,” said Barra. “Some states are saying all EV, from a sales perspective, by 2035. Our premise always at General Motors has been let’s just create such great electric vehicles and solve the charging issue for people that they want them as opposed to from a regulatory perspective, pushed into them.”

To that end, GM is addressing EV adoption in what it terms a “holistic” approach that includes:

  • Producing a wide range of electric vehicles from the ultra-pricey Hummer EV SUV and pickup and Cadillac Celestiq to electric versions of the Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck and Equinox and Blazer SUVs, down to the entry-level Chevrolet Bolt EV and EUV.
  • Investing nearly $750 million to expand the recharging infrastructure, including the intention to install up to 40,000 level two charging stations through its Community Dealer Recharging Program
  • Controlling the cost of batteries, an EV’s most expensive component by producing its own batteries through its Ultium Cells LLC joint venture with LG Energy Solution.

That’s all supporting GM’s goal for all of its light-duty vehicles to be battery electric by 2035.

When asked by if that’s a big gamble and how the company would know if the gamble paid off, Barra wasn’t buying the premise, responding, “As we hit our profitability targets that we laid out mid-decade and beyond, and we see the growth opportunities, because we are seeing right now the orders that we have for EVs, 40% on many of these new models, are new to GM. So, think of the growth opportunities.”

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