This year, General Motors will have to prove that it’s capable of ramping up production of its Ultium-based electric vehicle portfolio, which includes names like the Cadillac Lyriq, Chevrolet Equinox EV, and GMC Hummer EV.

That’s what Mary Barra, the CEO of the American auto giant said yesterday during a Wolfe Research investor conference, quoted by Automotive News. But the push for more EVs might be hindered by what customers want–an approach we’ve heard from Toyota before, and one that’s like a double-edged sword.

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GM pulls a Toyota

Although General Motors remains committed to electric vehicles, CEO Mary Barra said that the company will "be guided by the consumer" when it comes to its goal of having an all-electric lineup of light-duty vehicles by 2035. That sounds very similar to what Toyota's head of sales in North America recently said, which is that the Japanese automaker builds what the consumer wants, be it hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and EVs, as well as hydrogen- and gas-powered cars.

After a disappointing 2023 in terms of production volume on the EV front, GM’s head honcho went on record saying that 2024 is “the year of execution” for Detroid-based automaker. The creator of the discontinued Chevy Bolt EV and ultra-luxury Cadillac Celestiq has to do everything it can to get those delivery numbers up and the prices of cars down.

"We've got to demonstrate that we can build Ultium-based products and the market wants them and we can achieve our profitability goals," Barra said at yesterday’s conference. But it’s what she said next that caught our attention. “Even though we’ve said by 2035 our light-duty portfolio will be all-EV, we’ll be guided by the consumer,” the CEO added.

This sounds a lot like what Toyota North America’s head of sales, Jack Hollis, said at the beginning of February. “Our dealers are not telling us that the customer wants EVs more than other things,” Hollis mentioned. “They’re telling us they want EVs as a choice. They want plug-in hybrids as a choice. They want hydrogen as a choice. In fact, they would like to have gas engines [as a choice] but also have cleaner-burning fuels,” the Japanese automaker’s executive vice president of sales added.

As you probably know, Toyota has been hesitant in adopting an all-in approach to electric vehicles and instead is focusing on what it calls a multipronged approach, meaning it will continue to hybrids, plug-in hybrids, hydrogen fuel-cell cars, as well as develop a lineup of next-gen EVs.

Cadillac Celestiq in front of GM's Ultium EVs

Ultium-based all-electric vehicles from General Motors

And as the growth in the all-electric car segment has slowed in recent months, this approach seems to benefit Toyota–the automaker is even using the vasts amounts of cash from hybrid sales to fund future EVs. And it’s this reality that might ring a bell among GM’s execs.

Recently, the American car maker announced that it changed its mind on plug-in hybrid vehicles and that it will pour more money into this segment as emissions standards will toughen and sales of all-electric vehicles aren’t yet where industry experts hoped they would be.

That said, Mary Barra reiterated that GM remains committed to EVs and that adoption will increase, albeit at a slower pace than originally anticipated. This year, the company plans on building between 200,000 and 300,000 Ultium-based electric vehicles in North America, which includes models from Chevrolet, GMC, and Cadillac. Last year, GM delivered a smidge under 76,000 EVs in the U.S., the majority of which was represented by the now-retired Chevy Bolt EV and Bolt EUV pair.

In other words, the American auto giant will have to give it everything it has if it wants to increase deliveries three-fold without its main seller. Can it be done? We’ll just have to wait and see.

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