THE CITY OF DETROIT — Top General Motors executives, including CEO Mary Barra, visited the design dome in September 2017. The dome is revered within the company for its role in creating some of the company’s most iconic vehicles.
About 10 full-size clay models of electric vehicles, including designs like the Chevy Corvette and a variety of crossovers and SUVs, were on display in the showroom. While Wall Street was focused on Tesla’s nearly $400 share price and its celebrity CEO, Elon Musk, promising to lead the world’s transition toward more sustainable energy, the company’s stock price was largely overlooked.
GM’s sprawling tech campus in suburban Detroit provided executives with a glimpse of how they could outpace Tesla and long-time rivals like Ford Motor, which were also eyeing the buzzy electric vehicle market. They were prototypes for the various electric vehicles that General Motors could produce using a new platform they were working on.
Mary Barra’s Visionary Leadership Is A Force To Be Reckoned With
Meetings in September 2017 shaped GM’s “all-electric” future strategy, according to executives in attendance.
Ultium, a new platform dedicated to the company’s electric vehicle development, was the foundation for these strategies.
GM’s First Plant To Use The New Technology Began Producing Vehicles At The End Of Last Year
A trip to Silicon Valley by GM executives, including CEO Tim Cook and other high-ranking executives, in 2015 sped up the company’s progress on electric vehicle development.
According to several people who were present at the previously unreported meetings, executives met several times over the following days to discuss the platform’s potential and to devise a strategy for electric vehicles. Those were the days when GM’s future was decided, according to those who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
General Motors made its “all-electric future” declaration in the following week, a pivotal moment in the company’s history that would lead to its most ambitious shift since its founding in 1908.
This was the largest weekly gain in GM stock under Barra’s leadership, with a gain of over 11% to about $45 per share. Despite the short-term gains, executives were more certain than ever that they had made the right decision.
By 2025, General Motors has stated that it intends to invest $30 billion in electric vehicles, including the retooling of existing factories, constructing battery plants in the United States, and launching 30 electric models worldwide, such as the GMC Hummer Electrified Vehicle.
In a January interview with CNBC, Barra claimed, “No one has as many vehicles as we will have by 2025. GM has consistently defended this objective.
However, nearly five years after GM made its big announcement, the numbers are still not in the company’s favour — at least not yet. In the small but rapidly expanding U.S. electric vehicle market, Tesla still has 66% of the share, while GM only has 6% because of the slow ramp-up in production. Ford and Hyundai Motor are outselling it as well.
Only 8% of GM’s total sales are expected to be electric vehicles, according to estimates. The SAIC-GM-Wuling small car, China’s best-selling electric vehicle last year, is one example of a Chinese joint venture’s work.
As the first female CEO of a Detroit automaker in 2014, Barra is confident this will change, and her legacy may rest on her ability to turn the company into an electric leader.
Developing In A New Way
As an 18-year-old machinist in the company’s now-defunct Pontiac division when he started working there in 1980, Barra didn’t always have electric vehicles on his mind. When she first took over as CEO, she had a lot on her plate putting out old embers.
At first, it was the aftermath of a disastrous recall following the deaths of over 120 people as a result of faulty ignitions in older model cars. While still haunted by the company’s near-death experience in 2009, Barra concentrated on making the company more efficient.
It was during her time as CEO that the company’s global footprint was reduced by 27 percent to 157,000 employees, with exits from markets such as Australia, Europe, and Russia. Politicians and the United Auto Workers (UAW) were outraged by the long-term changes.
It was all about getting the company in better financial and operational shape to begin the next journey. According to Patricia Russo, an independent lead director of GM’s board. There’s no doubt in her mind that Barra. And her team are making the right decisions for the company, she said.
The Cuts Paved The Way For A New Kind Of Growth For Gm
General Motors CEO Mary Barra became more aware of industry trends as she worked to improve GM’s agility. To make the gas-guzzling fleets of legacy automakers look like relics, Tesla was gaining more attention. Uber and Lyft, two popular ride-hailing services, were viewed by some as having the potential to further erode the importance of the Big Three automakers.
Our response was simple: ‘OK, no disruptions’. We want to lead the change,” Barra, now 60, said.
On a trip to Silicon Valley in 2015. Barra and a group of executives were able to identify potential threats to the industry. Apple CEO Tim Cook, Google officials, venture capital investors, and Stanford University officials. Where Barra earned her master’s degree in business administration. Were among the people who met with the leadership team.
GM President Mark Reuss, who oversaw product development from 2014 to 2018. Said in an interview that “we needed a fundamental change” in some of the businesses in which the company was involved.
Car sharing and self-driving vehicles are two of the areas. That GM executives believe will have a major impact on the way people get around. Vehicles powered by electricity are a significant new segment.
After returning from the trip, GM took action on the issues it had identified. That included working to outpace Tesla. Which was promising to deliver the first mass-market electric vehicle at a price that was affordable to the average consumer.
GM’s Chevrolet Bolt, priced at $37,500 when it went on sale at the end of 2016. Beat out Tesla’s version by a few months. However, like GM’s Volt plug-in hybrid. The Bolt didn’t have the same cachet as Tesla’s cars, and its sales remain minimal.
For A Fresh Start
General Motors was working on a secret project in 2017 as it ramped up production of the Bolt. A vehicle that executives believed would help the company’s electric vehicle efforts.
An all-in-one framework for electric vehicles based on the Ultium platform was created, with the company’s battery packs built in. Traditional automakers like General Motors have been selling electric vehicles (EVs). For years using battery packs that were stuffed into modified vehicle frames. Vehicles could be removed quickly, but their full potential was not unlocked by the cumbersome procedure.
According to Reuss, “we really took a big leap” when we started architecting Ultum. Putting together a plan to do so and transition to an all-electric future was the beginning of the process.
In the fall of 2017, many GM executives saw the clay models of electric vehicles for the first time in the design dome. A vehicle’s potential design begins with the creation of these early concept drawings.
One resembled a supercharged Corvette. Another option was a vehicle like the Chevrolet Blazer, a compact crossover. Cadillac Escalade-style SUVs like these were also on display. The Cruise Origin self-driving shuttle started out as a bubbly-looking vehicle. That bore no resemblance to anything made by General Motors.
Over the course of the last four and half years, Barra has maintained his conviction that doubling. The company’s revenue by 2030 can be achieved using the Ultium platform and its supporting technologies. Such as its batteries and software system, Ultifi. GM’s first plant to use the new technology began producing the Hummer EV pickup truck last year.
A dedicated EV platform was needed in order “to really get scale,” Barra explained. “That’s why we’re able to go so quickly and have such a wide range of vehicles on the market.”
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