There is an overall decline in US auto sales with the exception of SUVs and pickups. This is what prompted the big auto manufacturers like Ford, Chrysler and General Motors (GM) to invest heavily into building electric trucks and SUVs in response to public demand for electric vehicles (EV).
Tesla has been dominating the EV space for almost a decade and with their development of a pickup truck, the legacy auto manufacturers are forced into a sprint to catch up before they lose market share. GM and Ford have the most to lose since their gasoline and diesel engine trucks are currently the best-selling vehicles, but the growing shift in market preference for electric vehicles may change all of that soon.
Ford has invested around $11.5 billion to produce an all electric fleet by 2022 but their current best-selling F-150 will see an electric variant as early as 2021. Fiat Chrysler, manufacturer of Ram pickup trucks, and Toyota, have no immediate plans for electric trucks at the moment. Toyota, however, has instead focused on developing hybrid vehicles in the immediate term.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that their upcoming pickup truck “will be a better truck than an F-150 in terms of truck-like functionality and be a better sports car than a standard [Porsche] 911. That’s the aspiration.”
Tesla’s only real competitor currently is Rivian which is heating up the race in the electric pickup truck and SUV space. Rivian is backed by Amazon and Ford and has already created working prototypes.
Not to be outdone, GM’s CEO Mary Barra recently announced that the company was in the process of developing all-electric trucks. However, no timetable was given for the production for that vehicle which indicates that it may still be a few years out. GM’s President Mark Reuss said that, “We will have a complete electric lineup, including a pickup truck that’s in development.”
GM has provided little information about their EV truck program which is known as the BT1 (battery electric 1) electric truck but they have invested around $3 billion for its development which is being done at their Hamtramck plant. Before GM can start selling their GMC and electric SUV from Cadillac in in the future, the company has plans to start producing vehicles in low volumes by late 2021.
GM is trying to imitate Tesla’s approach to EV development. Tesla first released their Roadster as a high-end EV for the environmentally-conscious upscale market and it was met with great success. They eventually gathered the funds to create the Model S sedan which became their biggest selling vehicle at the time. This was followed by the Model X SUV and the mainstream Model 3 which is their current best-seller.
GM’s plug in hybrid Chevy Volt and the all-electric Bolt never really caught on despite its competitive price tag. It was simply unable to match up to Tesla’s offerings and brand cache in the EV market.
One brand that GM is trying to electrify is Hummer. The brand that was once synonymous with gas guzzling trucks will be given a new lease on life as an electric vehicle. GM is counting on its strong brand identity to bring back customers of the ultimate SUV.
General Motors is carefully examining their options for creating EV trucks that will compete with the current industry leaders. This move should help them meet the emission standards required in the US and Europe and transition their lead of the SUV and pickup truck segment into the EV future.
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