GM To Build 500,000 Electric-Tech Cars A Year By 2017. Spark EV Will Not Be A Compliance Car

5 years ago by Jay Cole 7

2014 Cadillac ELR, Part Of GM's "Sustainability In Motion," As Sales Plan For The Future

While General Motors has sold more than 50,000 electrified (in someway) vehicles so far in 2012, the company aims for a 10-fold increase in four year’s time, up to 500,000 vehicles, with a focus on plug-ins.

“What started out as a technology proof point… has turned into a real-world starting point to push EV technology further and faster than we thought possible five years ago,” Global Product Development Chief Mary Barra said. “The unique propulsion technology pioneered in the Volt – the same technology that will be featured in the Cadillac ELR – will be a core piece of our electrification strategy going forward.”

Now one does have to consider exactly what General Motors is saying here to achieve this 500,00 number; these vehicles with “electric technology” are not purely plug-in cars like the upcoming Chevrolet Spark EV, Chevrolet Volt and Cadillac ELR.  Electric tech also includes GM’s lineup of eAssist cars, such as the Chevy Malibu, Buick Regal, LaCrosse, and the new Impala in 2014.

eAssist Has Traditionally Meant "Poor Seller" at GM

Thankfully, GM really doesn’t do “eAssist” all that well, or hybrids for that matter, so the bulk of these 500,000 cars will indeed come with a plug.

“A major focus for GM’s electrification strategy will center on the plug.  We have every intention of maintaining our leadership position in plug-in vehicles.”

Included in this push to 500,000 initiative, is good news on the Spark EV (which will debut the end of this month at the LA Auto Show). Specifically, that General Motors no longer sees it just as a compliance car anymore, and that it may now go on sale as early as “summer this year.”

“We’ll meet requirements set by certain regulatory agencies, but we’re not building the Spark EV to check a regulatory box,” noted the GM exec, while saying the car will first go on sale in South Korea and in select US markets before rolling out on a global scale.

GM on Hydrogen in 2002: Available In 2010. GM on Hydrogen in 2010: "Could" Be Available in 2015

Sadly, while relaying the good news on electric technology and the Spark EV to reporters (but not noted in GM’s official press release), Ms. Barra added that GM will not stop working on hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles,  which means we may be forced to see more of them (or at least concepts of them) well into the future.

The company also re-confirmed production of the Cadillac ELR, which is set to debut in the fall of 2013 in the US.  The production-intent ELR can first be seen this January at the NAIAS in Detroit.

GM Media, Reuters

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7 responses to "GM To Build 500,000 Electric-Tech Cars A Year By 2017. Spark EV Will Not Be A Compliance Car"

  1. Mark H says:

    Great report!
    GM > committed, Nissan > committed, Ford working on commitment, Tesla Model S getting recognition as auto of the year in four reports. All of this while reports announce continued fracking at a prolific rate. A lot of anxiety on this journey, but the progress slowly moves forward every day.

  2. Jay Cole says:

    I was going to add some data points on the breakdown of ‘electric tech’ sales to the article but I didn’t want it getting too ‘mathy’…

    For the year (through October 2012) GM has sold a little more than 26,000 ‘eAssist’ vehicles, while over the same period they have sold a little under 21,000 Volts and a little more than 4,000 Amperas.

    1. Schmeltz says:

      I don’t know, but my read on what Mary Barra said was that we will likely see a lot more E-Assist vehicles to get to 500,000. It is probably relatively easy from an engineering, manufacturing, and cost standpoint to make standard the E-Assist technology on all or most of their vehicles. Think of the sales numbers if you put E-Assist as standard on all of the Silverado/Sierra/Tahoe/Suburban lines alone. I can’t fathom GM having an EREV Malibu or Equinox ready in the next 5 years that the average family will be able to afford. E-Assist is the low hanging fruit so to speak, and easiest to implement over the whole range of vehicles that they sell. I think when they say 500,000 electrified vehicles, the overwhelming majority will be E-Assist, and the plug-ins will be a larger niche than they are now, but still a niche none the less for the next number of years.

  3. ClarksonCote says:

    Hydrogen… Sigh. It solves the problem of instant refueling, but at such a high infrastructure cost and well-to-wheels electricity penalty. If that same money was put into productizing some of the recent battery breakthroughs, we’d have the same instant refueling benefit without all the added downsides.

    [TIN HAT]
    Of course, oil companies can’t monopolize the market with electricity 😉
    [/TIN HAT]

  4. Brian says:

    I am less optimistic about this. Unfortunately, to an automater, “electric tech” does NOT mean the car has a plug. And if the car does not have a plug, it is 100% dependent on gasoline. Such cars include traditional hybrids and eAssist.

    Jay, you say “Thankfully, GM really doesn’t do “eAssist” all that well, or hybrids for that matter, so the bulk of these 500,000 cars will indeed come with a plug.” I think you are jumping the gun here. Yes, I want to believe you, but I don’t see it. GM really doesn’t do a lot of plug-ins either. (Let’s see, today we have the Volt and… um… a bunch of concepts and a few promises). You had a list of eAssist cars one can buy today. There is a similar list of hybrids.

    Bottom line – I’ll believe it when I see it. I hate when cars without plugs are marketed as electric. They aren’t. They’re gas cars. “Electric tech” isn’t wrong per se, but it’s frustratingly close and the distinction is lost on the general public.

  5. Stuart22 says:

    Yes, I also disagree with Statik pooh-pooing eAssist – I think it will be their main thrust to get to 500k. It’s cheap and simple, and lends itself easily to all their offerings. Not to mention that other manufacturers are coming out with their own versions, Nissan Altima @ 38mpg, BMW 3 series @ 34mpg, etc.

    1. Jay Cole says:

      /ban IP

      …just kidding, all good Stuart, (=