General Motors Can’t “Consider” Too Long
Perhaps it was a knee-jerk response to arch-rival Ford’s announcement last week that a battery-electric F-150 is on the way. Or maybe it was time to let the cat out of the bag. Whatever the reason, when asked by CNBC about the potential for an electric GMC Sierra, Duncan Aldred, vice president of GMC, replied, “Certainly, it’s something we’re considering.”
Of course General Motors should be “considering” electric pickups as well as SUVs. Both vehicle categories are flying off dealer showroom floors. More important, they are really big money makers, not only for GM, but for Ford and Fiat Chrysler’s Ram pickups as well.
At the moment, it’s not known what “considering” means. Are engineers hard at work developing an electric truck? Are designers working on styling and packaging? And what about batteries; can they travel the distance that consumers want at a price they can afford?
Aldred would neither confirm nor deny that there is any active program underway within the company to actually develop an electric pickup. He did tell CNBC, however, that battery technology still carries a fairly hefty premium that makes it difficult to target mainstream segments, unless a carmaker is willing to accept lower margins. As a result, the executive said, automakers would likely target higher end products.
That line of thinking is confirmed by David Cole, director-emeritus of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “It’s always a mistake to introduce a new technology on a lower-priced product,” said Cole. “You have a better opportunity to cover costs if it’s on a high-end vehicle.”
It would make sense for GM to introduce electrification to GMC first, followed by the Chevrolet Silverado. GMC already has premium features such as the Multi-pro tailgate, a GMC exclusive. It’s also marketed as more high-end and premium, which could help make the cost of an electrified Sierra easier to recoup for GM, and easier to swallow for customers.
The pickup war in the U.S. is fierce and Ford’s announcement of a coming electric F-150 left GM little choice but to talk about its own pickup electrification. But that’s not the only pressure on GM. Startup Bollinger has shown off it’s prototype electric truck and SUV, and Rivian, another startup based down the road in Plymouth, Mich., introduced its high-power, long-range truck at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November. Then there’s the Tesla pickup, which Tesla CEO Elon Musk continues to say will arrive in 2020.
Last March, GM CEO Mary Barra said that the carmaker is on a “path to an all-electric future.” The GMC Sierra pickup will certainly be traveling along that path, but the Detroit automaker can’t sit around and just “consider”. If it does, their electric pickup will get lost in the shuffle.
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