General Motors Company, also known as GM, is an American multinational corporation headquartered in Detroit, Michigan. GM’s primary goal as a company is to design, manufacture and distribute vehicles and their parts along with providing financial services. GM at its peak had a 50% market share in the United States, helping cement its status as the world’s largest automaker company from 1931 to 2007.
General Motors produced the GM EV1 and leased it from 1996 to 1999. It was the first mass-produced consumer-end electric vehicle of the modern era from a large automaker and also GM’s first electric car. One of the major reasons for the manufacturing and selling of electric vehicles by GM was a mandate passed by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) at the time that made at least 3% of all cars produced to be emission-free for each automaker. Also, it was planned by CARB to increase the mandate to 10%. GM thus was in a hurry to develop emission-free cars which would be consumer-ready.
Launching a car to market involves designing, manufacturing, and setting up its distribution among all distributors along with its spare parts supply chain, providing training courses to mechanics, etc. Since GM was not fully confident at that time about the survival of the EV1 in the market, the EV1 was a fleet test. GM had restricted the sale of the EV1 and was only available for lease for this reason.
This was done by GM as they along with many other large automakers opposed the mandate passed by CARB. CARB made the changes to the mandate that repealed the requirement for producing emission-free vehicles. Since the changes were made, there was no urgency to make more of the EV1, and GM thus terminated their fleet test.
This is not to say that the changes made in the CARB mandate were the only reason to recall all EV1’s. Another reason was that the EV1 had issues is because of its battery. To run an electric car, a number of sophisticated electronics which require good battery technology are required, both of which were out of GM’s technological scope at that moment.
GM discontinued the car not only since the CARB mandate was changed but to stop any positive publicity of the EV1 that would encourage CARB to dig its heels in. Furthermore, GM couldn’t solve the problems the car had with its technology and GM didn’t want technologically sub-par GM cars to exist in the market.
Since the introduction of electric cars and breakthroughs in its technology by Tesla, many companies have followed suit and developed their own electric vehicles considering the growth of Tesla. Tesla proved to every major automaker that the market for electric vehicles exists and that electric vehicles can perform at the same level if not better than conventional fossil fuel vehicles.
Currently, some of the fastest production cars in the market are the Tesla Model S and the Tesla Roadster, with the Roadster expecting to break the 2-second barrier in the 0 to 60 mph acceleration test for production cars and the special SpaceX option package for Tesla Roadster expected to go from 0 to 60 mph in around 1.1 seconds.
Judging on the success of Tesla’s EVs, GM has also embraced electric vehicles and even put out the Chevrolet EV Bolt in 2016 which has sold roughly 20,000 vehicles as of the end of 2020. GM currently has plans to launch the Hummer EV later this year and according to their latest available sustainability report, they plan to become an all-electric vehicle company by the end of 2035.
GM has currently promised in its sustainability report that it will allocate $20 billion for the development of EV and AV (Autonomous Vehicles) programs and around $2.2 billion for an assembly plant in Detroit which will be fully dedicated to the manufacturing of EVs and will support around 2000 jobs.
GM is currently the only automaker placed on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) for North America for the last 5 years consecutively and it’s been named for the third time in the DJSI World Index.
GM was also included in the S&P 500 ESG Index, which recognizes strong performance in environmental, social, and governance factors. GM has displayed an average annual 10% improvement in its Cruise AV core safety and plans to source 100% of its electricity for GM-owned facilities from renewable sources in America by 2030, and globally by 2040.
GM seems to have embraced the electric vehicle market and sustainability model. They additionally aim to be a leader in the EV market but have tough competition from other large automakers namely Nissan, Tesla, BMW, Audi, Volkswagen, etc. If one were to estimate the position of GM’s future in the EV market based on their current position and their future sustainability plans, GM would most likely stand out as a major player in the industry by having a decent chunk of the market share.
General Motors Written by Prasan Dham
Edited by Jack Argiro, Jayakody Devon, Vishwaa Narayanan