General Motors reiterated Tuesday that it is committed to an all-electric future and said it will increase production of its Bolt hatchback in the fourth quarter to meet worldwide demand.
The company’s sustainability report, presented in conjunction with its annual shareholder meeting Tuesday, said it will launch more than 20 new zero-emissions vehicles in global markets by 2023.
GM has been aggressive this year in its push for electric and autonomous vehicle development, Chairman and CEO Mary Barra noted in meeting with reporters.
“We are committed to an all-EV future and continue to work in that direction,” she said. “Just 10 days ago we had an important announcement of a partnership with SoftBank. So if you look at where we are, it’s a very exciting time.”
GM is not saying by how much it will ratchet up production of the Bolt, which it presently builds at its Orion Assembly plant in suburban Detroit. But GM is “taking a percentage of that production and sending it overseas for example to South Korea,” said GM spokesman Tony Cervone. “We’re trying to fill the pipeline in some of the international countries.”
Cervone said demand for the Bolt is strong and the U.S. will get more of the cars toward the end of the year.
GM launched the Bolt near the end of 2016. Last year, GM sold 26,005 Bolt EVs, it said. About 94 percent of those are retail sales, with the balance going to fleet such as governments, municipalities and higher education institutions, GM said.
But some shareholders at the meeting reminded the automaker to stay focused on its primary business model of making gasoline-powered cars. Some analysts agree.
“Mary Barra and GM are reinforcing their message and strategy to lead in electric and autonomous vehicles,” said Michelle Krebs, executive analyst for AutoTrader in Detroit. “Yet GM’s most important launch comes this fall when it goes to market with the redesigned Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks. Those trucks and the beefy profits they produce are the fuel to finance the high-tech future.”
In remarks to shareholders, Barra said GM recognizes the importance of a flawless launch of its new pickups this fall, adding, “These trucks will accelerate our profitability in the coming years.”
The company is on good footing, Barra said.
“We have a strong core business and are in a transformative era. We’re working to address the issues of crash-free and give people the choices of mobility. I couldn’t be more excited about the future of the company and our direction,” Barra said.
The sustainability report said GM now has 180 autonomous vehicles in test fleets in San Francisco, Phoenix and Detroit.
Late last month, GM announced a partnership with technology investment firm SoftBank to bring self-driving technology in the form of ride sharing to consumers by next year. SoftBank, which has stakes in such companies as Uber, will invest $2.25 billion in GM Cruise Holdings, and GM will invest $1.1 billion in GM Cruise, its self-driving arm, when the transaction closes at the end of this month.
To be a leader in the electric vehicle market, GM said it has been partnering with utility companies, government agencies and other entities that help create the infrastructure to prepare U.S. and Chinese markets for electric vehicles.
GM continues to push for increased fuel economy among its standard vehicles through engineering innovations and removing weight from cars. Since 2016, GM said it has taken more than 5,000 pounds from 14 new vehicle models, saving 35 million gallons of gasoline used, it said in its report.
“We would like to see one national program,” Barra said of U.S. fuel economy standards, pointing to differences between California regulators, who want to maintain higher standards and have an exemption to do so under the Clean Air Act, and the administration, which is rolling back federal standards.
“We’ve communicated that, and we are committed to an all-EV future,” Barra stressed.
GM will also put its Super Cruise technology on all Cadillac vehicles starting in 2020.
Super Cruise, a hands-free driver assistance feature for the freeway, will go on other GM vehicles after 2020, it said.
The 2018 CT6 luxury sedan is currently the only Cadillac to offer Super Cruise.
Cadillac will also offer “vehicle-to-everything” (V2X) communications in “a high-volume crossover by 2023.”
But GM’s earnings in the first quarter did not show gains amid the long-term investment in new technology. GM reported significant declines as it realigned its pickup production to match market demands and completed aggressive restructuring at its operations in South Korea.
GM reported its first-quarter net income plummeted 59.8 percent to $1.05 billion from the year ago period. Its operating profits fell 26.6 percent to $2.6 billion from the same quarter in 2017.
At the time, Barra said the results matched GM’s expectations because the company planned for lower pickup production in North America “related to the transition to our all-new Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra,” she said.
“We are on plan to deliver another strong year in 2018,” she said.
While there has been some fluctuation in GM’s stock price over the past 12 months, overall it is worth more today that a year earlier. At the close of trading June 11, GM was valued at $44.84 per share, compared with $34.68 per share at the close of trading June 12, 2017.
At last year’s shareholder meeting, GM shareholders voted down a proposal by billionaire investor David Einhorn’s Greenlight Capital’s proposal to create to classes of GM shares.
Contact Jamie LaReau at firstname.lastname@example.org or 313-222-2149.
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