It's Official: General Motors Now Sees Tesla As A Threat

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Dan Akerson

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"History is littered with big companies that ignored innovation that was coming their way because you didn’t know where you could be disrupted."

General Motors will be hoping those words, from vice chairman Steve Girksy as the automaker begins to study electric upstart Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA], don't become too prophetic.

They're a clear indication that major automakers are starting to worry about the startup electric automaker, as GM CEO Dan Akerson looks into how Tesla may affect the 104-year old GM's business.

According to Bloomberg, studying Tesla is just one way that Akerson is hoping to change GM's culture after its financial difficulties in 2009.

The world economic crisis and the big bailouts required as a result of it shook the major U.S. automakers out of a complacency that had let them fall behind rivals from overseas--and improvements from the Big Three are already apparent as quality, performance and efficiency climb inexorably upward.

Several internal processes at GM have changed since Akerson took the reins, but improving the company's future means improving its products too.

Most important from a technology perspective is continued development of the Volt--the next generation of which could arrive in 2015 or 2016, according to Akerson. Reducing cost will be a major hurdle to overcome, with engineers working to cut as much as $10,000 from the cost of each car.

While the Volt currently undercuts Tesla's Model S by quite a margin, rumblings of a more compact, more affordable Tesla sedan mean GM can't afford to sit around. Even this year, first-quarter Model S sales were higher than Volt sales.

It's a car intriguing GM, and no doubt plenty of other automakers too.

“In the old days, they would’ve said, ‘It’s a bunch of laptop batteries and don’t worry about it and blah, blah, blah,’” Girsky told Bloomberg, referring to GM's old methods.

Now though, things are different. "I don’t know if [the Model S is] going to work or not work. All I know is if we ignore it and say it’s a bunch of laptop batteries, then shame on us.”

The subtext? Modern GM probably wouldn't have crushed hundreds of examples of its most innovative vehicle. With Tesla Motors around, it simply can't afford to.


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Comments (130)
  1. The biggest problem I see with the current GM model is sales. Car dealerships are like stepping back into the 70's from an experiential point of view. Sure, they might be slick looking, with their little bays where you pick up your shiny vehicle, but it's the same slimy people selling them now that were selling them 40 years ago. My Volt buying experience was terrible, because every dealer in Phoenix was more interested in selling a different car and weren't that knowledgeable (and didn't seem to care). My car wasn't even fully charged, wasn't even half charged, and they had two days notice that I was picking it up. Problem is, GM is stuck with these dinosaurs, while Tesla is not, and I think in the end Tesla will win their battle.

  2. Great point, customer experience is as, if not more important than the technology used in creating a successful product.

    GM already possesses all the technology and engineering knowledge to build BEVs, it's just not creating the customer experience & desire at levels above it's traditional comfort zone.

  3. I went to 4 dealers before I found a sales person who knew more about the Volt than I did. I bought from him.

  4. Good for you, Mittar and I hope that you love it. I went to three and none of them knew squat, but I leased one anyway. All nice guys and I don't think car salesmen are anymore slimy than engineers or doctors, for that matter, but the guy I leased from was lucky that I'd had enough and knew enough without him.

  5. You hit it right on with this one. Will GM dealers send repair technicians to your garage like the Tesla Rescue Rangers? Will they flat-bed your vehicle wherever it is for major repairs and return it to your door, giving you a high-performance loaner while you wait? I keep hearing the same stories about dealers trying to talk customers out of electric cars because they claim to know nothing about them. Even a great product can't really sell and service itself. GM should be VERY worried.

  6. If GM is selling a $100k car, it might.

    I wonder if the Tesla is doing the same customer service for the sub $40k car and when its customer base increases to 250,000...

  7. Since it has no local dealership base Tesla will have to provide that kind of service, or it's customer base will be self-limiting. If their cars really require little service, they should be able to pull it off just fine.

  8. Still once the customer base gets large enough, it might be an issue.

  9. People seem to be confused. Tesla has local dealerships in states that are owned by Tesla. What Tesla does prefer is keeping their sales and repair/service separate.

    Long story short, there will be multiple local service centers in every state!

  10. Tesla may have service centers across the country, thier number is very small compared to GM which has dealer service centers in almost every town. If you have an issue with a GM car you just have to drive or tow it 5 miles down the road. If you have an issue with a Tesla you could be talking hundreds of miles to the nearest service center. With that situation the Tesla door service makes lost of sense.

  11. Steve Girksky of GM is worried that tesla just might provide customer service like that to people who buy the Tesla cars that are more reasonably priced. That's why GM won't take a chance standing around to see if it happens, Obama won't be around to bailout any more car companies after 2016 and the government mandated CAFE standards will start getting tougher in 2017, by then Tesla might be making huge gains in the electric car market, while some other large automaker (Crysler) which has no hybrids or BEV's available at all right now, may once again find themselves in trouble because they resist the change that almost every competitor now accepts. future vehicles will become greener and cheaper, falling behind risks bankruptcy again.

  12. Why would they or why would they need to?
    Just like today, there'll be premium and ordinary service and there'll be 3rd-party service centers, too.

  13. There are more comments in this thread
  14. I guarantee Big Oil is behind this.

    GM had their best opportunity to become the world leader in electrics back in the late 1990s, but they blew it.

    The "Volt" was a compromised vehicle (actually a PHEV) that never lived up to it's promised 100-mile battery range. (Not a bad hybrid though.)

    People now have more all-electric options, and, because of the success of Tesla Motor Co., are now aware that they can go all-electric, so "Volt" PHEV sales are down, go figure.

    GM is going to pay for their screw-up for the long-term, that's what happens with short-term thinking. This man needs to re-watch "Who Killed The Electric Car" and watch "Revenge of the Electric Car".

    What GM wants here, they should not get, because of jealousy and pride.

  15. Actually Volt sales are up, but that's because they finally realized it was a market that they need to pay attention to, and have been offering good deals on the Volt.

    The Volt is a Very good car, I'm loving mine. It's no Tesla though.

  16. pay someone $40K to customize your volt. :-)
    you could get a custom battery, a custom interior and a Level 3 charger
    for that money.

  17. It would be cool.

    I would add a larger battery, a more powerful motor and a smaller engine that is removable for a quick swap...

  18. @Mark David,

    Isn't this article about the change of attitude at GM?

    And you are still whining about EV-1?

  19. facts don't matter to people like Mark. The car was advanced for its era, but the EV1 was still a piece of nothing compared to the most basic ICE vehicles of its day. That's why people love to make up numbers about its range, ignore the fact that many OEMs destroy concept and other limited run vehicles, etc... These same people are angry 20 years later because GM wasn't willing to lose tens of thousands of dollars per car for a car that almost nobody wanted in the first place. Gas was still cheap, GM struggled to sell/lease even a few thousand, etc... Perhaps you might want to blame the ignorant consumers, since it's they who almost completely ignored the EV1 when it came to decision time and getting a car.

    But I know, GM bad...

  20. Exactly, NOT to mention that if GM has the EV-1 again with Li-ion battery and still a limited space 2 seater, people wouldn't buy it with today's standard.

    How many people complained about Volt being only 4-seater?

  21. No-one would buy the Model T with today's standard but look where it led.
    How can you fail to understand that the EV1 was just a starting point - just like the Tesla Roadster.

  22. Anyone who compare Model T to EV-1 has NO basic understanding of automative history.

    Model-T was designed to ground up to be simple, cheap and easily massively produced. EV-1 was an "experiment".

  23. Stop making stuff up. GM REFUSED to SELL the EV1 to anyone and would only allow models to be displayed if the powertrain was disabled or removed.

    The only known intact EV1 is in the Smithsonian.

    And there was a LOT of interest in electric vehicles. The 1994 PrEView program for the Impact prototype was looking for fifty people for trials - they got 24 THOUSAND across CA & NY.
    And the car was praised by both Motor Trend and Automobile mag.
    I could rant about this for hours but suffice to say that GM and Toyota threw away a golden opportunity to be the frontrunners in the revival of electric vehicles and have only themselves to blame.

  24. They were looking to "buy" something that was "NEVER for sale".

    I seriously doubt that those so called interested buyer would have paid the $80k price. Some of the "pretended" to offer around $24k for it. Silly.

  25. And again, GM couldn't manage to give away the cars. The EV revolution as decades away and nothing was anywhere near the EV1 developing into anything. GM didn't force other OEMs t quit EV research, did it?

    If GM and other OEMs still struggle to make a competitive EV now, how much later, the amusing belief that the EV1 would have led to anything other than a commercial failure and billions in losses at GM can be seen as the comedy it is.

    Unlike people like you, MM, most people don't hold grudges for decades about a vehicle most people have not heard of. But please, stay bitter while GM makes billions selling to people who care more about 2013 than 1991. Some people need a Bogeyman, I guess... How's Nissan's golden opportunity working out?

  26. The EV1 was the Remagen Bridge of Electric vehicles.
    The Battery technology wasn't quite there, the vehicle was a little too small. If GM was going to make a 2 seater, they needed to add
    a small rankine engine and generator that would produce enough
    power to let you cruise home at either 20 MPH(Limphome) or 55 MPH (Drive home). if the EV1-B had added those features,
    it could have still been mostly electric and provided better function.

    The pity wasn't that the EV-1 failed, but that GM didn't keep up the R&D program. Toota did that with the prius and has slowly moved up the technology curve. Same with Honda.

    The Volt is pretty awesome, and it's likely to be a success if they keep working on it.

  27. GM's biggest failure from the dismantling of the EV1 program was the loss of goodwill, a shocking decision given that the EV1 lessees were mostly very well-to-do and influential.
    Since you mentioned Toyoto, I'll point out that they had the RAV4 EV, which was more suitable to those who found the EV1 too small.
    In the end, Toyota came out looking pretty good when they decided to stop crushing the cars and sold several hundred to consumers.
    Approximately 500 - about 1/3rd - of the RAV4 EVs are still running.

  28. @ Morin Moss,

    And what did Toyota do with all that goodwill? Openly denying the future of BEV for all. And they now are heavily invested in hybrids which is the biggest road block to BEV in terms of cost. They are the closest in terms of cost per mile and no limit in range.

  29. Good will from 20 years ago means nothing to 99.9% of consumers in 2013, of course. Honda has moved up the technology curve? really, by offering the worst hybrids in the market that it cannot sell? By seeing the mileage for its hybrids actually go down over the years?

    No matter what was made for EVs in the Ev1 days, they were not going to sell, were not going to be profitable, etc... using interest numbers from people who didn't end up showing any real interest in actually paying for the EV1 is hilarious.

    99% of consumers are not aware that Toyota RAV4 EV was ever made. How's that goodwill working out for them?

  30. GM never promised 100 miles electric from the Volt.

  31. There are more comments in this thread
  32. I'm confident that the only thing GM will get out of this is that Tesla is that Tesla is non-union and no-dealers.

    Electric car development would require real leadership and vision; not things GM has ever been known for. Finally, the company is not 103 years old; the old one, General Motors Corporation went BK. This new company, owned in part by governments around the world, is General Motors Company.

  33. GM was the first car company to put many safety and advanced features in the car. Granted most of that happened 40-50 years ago. The sales reflect that. At 1 point, GM account for more than 50% of the total US sales. It hasn't been even close to that for the last 40 years.

    Maybe the "new" GM will wake up.

    I just don't understand why it takes a bankruptcy for an old US brand corporation to change.

  34. I think it's because company management promotes replacements that are just like themselves. Then there are the CEO psychopaths who make sure there are no qualified replacements in the lower ranks to challenge their position. It takes a major outside force to decapitate these crusty parasites and bring in fresh thinking and ability. Bankruptcy can do that.

  35. It certainly feels that way. You would think "board of directors" would do their job...

    Also, it seems that most American corporations (publically traded) are really shortsighted with their investment horizon is as long as couple quarters instead of decades, especially those are NOT owned by the founders.

  36. Well said Norm, you hit the nail right on the head.

  37. Comment disabled by moderators.

  38. @Amy: Slurs on other commenters' ethnic origins are strictly prohibited on this site. Your comment has been removed by the moderator.

  39. It took bankruptcy to wake up because too many GM management people had backward thinking. after emerging from bankruptcy they realized relying too heavily on sales of larger, heavier less fuel efficient vehicles (which had larger profit margins) was dangerous after gas prices first spiked in 08 to over $4.00 a gal. and suddenly sales of those vehicles nosedived. GM has woke up to reality. however, union rules and union influences do slow progress to some degree. Tesla is free from that, and as a result has impressed many and grown rapidly in just a short time. GM as well as others are looking over there shoulder and saying WOW we can't make the same mistakes again, some of these start ups could kill us in the future.

  40. There are more comments in this thread
  41. Such unexpected humble pie...Seems to me GM isn't doing too bad. The Volt, Spark EV, Cadillac ELR, they are hardly ignoring plug-ins and if the hints that they are on to a 300 mile battery has any truth to it, it could actually be Tesla that needs to have some concern.

    As for threat: even more to the oil industry I reckon that is no doubt none to pleased with the "free for life" slogan and has ample experience in dealing with developments that could become a threat to their mega profits. Ask the corn industry how that works.

  42. The biggest question will be answered in the second generation of Volt. If GM is really believing in the technology, it will make huge improvements and spread that technology to mid size family sedan AND SUV/trucks. Of course, Voltect powertrain might NOT be needed anymore for cars if the 300 miles battery can really happen.

    For work truck and long range SUVs, I think a more powerful Voltec is still a more realistic powertrain than battery only configuration.

  43. The improvements on the volt 2.0 are minor.

  44. @Weapon Zero: Source(s), please? Details?

  45. Volt 2.0 aren't expected until 2015/2016.

    Unless you are assuming the Caddy ELR is Volt 2.0. I think it is really a Volt 1.3.

  46. What are you talking about? There have already been semi's developed that run on batterys only and have successfully completed long range runs.(nearly 2,000 km) No noise, no stinking exhaust, No oil--no fooling. All electric intercity buses are running in China and other more advanced nations.

  47. And they cost a cool Million each?

    I am talking about comparable weight and performance and cost trucks that run on battery with 100-200 miles EV range...

    Most electric buses in China are running off hanging rails on top. The battery ones have very limited range.

  48. Trucks today, unless a yard bird (one that just moves around trailers on a lot), are better suited for LNG.

  49. Old organizations of any type become homogenous in belief or approach. Minority views, regardless of correctness, are crushed, and overly talented challengers to top positions are recognized early by upper management and chased from employment. Eventually they (big organizations) become unable to see reality because of the lack of variation in their views. They simply confirm each others predispositions, with the truth sayers being chastised. That's why paradigm shifts are so amazing to us, we never see them coming. This is true of government, industry and acadamia. Now, in defense of GM, they are no different than any other large corporation filled with an army of "yes men" whose rise up is political rather than merit based.

  50. @ Chris Johnson
    Thanks for mentioning that government, industry and academia all suffer from the same disease. As Tesla grows and expands in more models offered and world markets, they too will experience these things.

  51. Well now we're up to two companies that officially see Tesla as a threat, Audi and GM. This is what electric cars needed, a company building high quality electric cars that are so good they are actually giving the big brands a reason to compete. Tesla could be the electric car's tipping point.

  52. Those two are just openly "admitted". Others might be shaking behind the door but NOT openly saying anything.

    Toyota still sticks with its hybrid belief but it does hedge its bet with investment in Tesla.

    Ford is doing similar thing with its investment in hybrids.

    VW is still investing heavily in diesel.

    Hyundai/Kia is investing in hydrogen.

    Chrysler/Fiat is still denying it.

  53. Yes since Audi and GM have openly admitted their feelings towards Tesla that makes it official. Any other company with Tesla on it's radar who hasn't said anything just haven't made it official with a press statement yet.

  54. @ Xiaolong Li
    Sir you are very well informed, The quick rise of Tesla motors has scared the crap out of the competition, but some are too proud to openly admit it. While others like Toyota were so impressed with the Tesla drivetrain and battery technology, that they decided to piggyback on Tesla technology buying $50,000,000 dollars of stock in Tesla, in exchange for Tesla tech in the new Toyota Rav4. The old strategy (if you can't beat them, join them) is a hedge for sure. This is absolutely great news for BEV cars. 2014 Smart car will have a Tesla battery, I think BMW will also use the Tesla battery if I remember a previous article correctly. other companies will be forced to develop their own tech to stay in the race, except Chrysler.

  55. @Gene: No, the 2014 Smart Electric Drive does not use a Tesla battery.

    That was the previous (second) generation of electric Smart, known as the "Electric Drive" to differentiate it from the first-generation "Electric Vehicle".

    The cells for the lithium-ion battery in the ED3 are provided by Li-Tec Battery GmbH, a joint venture between Daimler and Evonik. The 17.6-kWh battery pack itself is built by Deutsche ACCUmotive, a different joint venture between Daimler and Evonik.

  56. I believe BMW uses A123 battery.

  57. @Xiaolong: That is correct. The current ActiveHybrid 3 and 5 Series sedans and the second-generation (2013) ActiveHybrid 7 Series all use A123 cells in their battery packs.

  58. You think Akerson is worried that Tesla could deliver more PEVs outside of North America (EU) than GM does in 2nd half of 2013?

    A 2012 GM PEV global sales summary:

  59. GM needs to design an build and sell a full line of EV's to compete directly with Tesla.

    Oh and they need to stop planned obsolescence in all their vehicles. Design improvements and better reliability rather than change for change's sake.


  60. GM needs to support their Volt installed base at least as well as Apple does their iOS device base. That is, all software upgrades for 2-3 years at least, with functionality improvements that don't require newer hardware that doesn't exist on the older cars.

    Or, they could go one better and have new hardware features be dealer-installable. No reason why 2011s can't get the new MyLink stuff and firmware improvements (such as Hold mode, kWh displays, etc) except for either crappy oldthink or software incompetence. They could learn a few things from Tesla.

  61. Actually even the 2012 Volt has different version of SW.

    I think some Chevy dealers will upgrade some of the SW if you whine and moan enough. But the EV hold mode is definitely NOT avaiable on pre-2013 models.

    The temperature of which the ICE kicks on is settable on some of the 2012 models (late year) and 2013 models. But they are NOT available on the 2011 and early 2012 models...

  62. This. I love my Volt, but it's pretty unacceptable that GM can't be bothered with fixing a bug in the HDD music storage software that displays album tracks out of order. That'a pretty basic fix for functionality that is broken out of the box.

  63. "GM needs to design an build and sell a full line of EV's to compete directly with Tesla."
    True, but the dealerships also have to try to sell them. Tesla would have to get a whole lot more successful before that happens, as in 'electric or die'. What dealership wants to push cars that don't need service?

  64. Exactly!

    Car dealers make most of their profits from service and used car sales. New cars sales is only a small % of their profit. So, there is NO incentive for the "independent" auto dealers to sell a car that requires almost no maintainence and has far fewer moving parts to replace.

  65. Comment disabled by moderators.

  66. @Amy: Slurs on other commenters' ethnic origins are strictly prohibited on this site. Your comment has been removed by the moderator.

  67. Excellent point, that's another reason why I love Tesla. There's so many lawsuits in different states against Tesla from the automobile dealers association, because they too feel threatened that the middle man will be eliminated from future car buying and the service departments won't make much. I hope the Tesla strategy eventually becomes mainstream, just imagine a time when you could by any vehicle from any car company directly, eliminating all the high pressure salesman trying to trick you with advertising gimmicks, telling you the model you want won't be included in this current sales promotion, or telling you they have a few but they loaded the car with many expensive options you don't want, exceeding the base price too much, etc.

  68. A company called Direct buy Will sell furniture and many other household related items that come directly from a variety of manufacturers, eliminating the middleman and saving you the consumer money, this is the same strategy Tesla is trying to use. It should be noted that the furniture stores are all crying foul and try to discourage factories from working with Direct buy
    So this strategy is not new, it's just frowned on by the people that want you and I to pay more for the same products.

  69. This guy just looks like a dinosaur to me, although I agree with what he had to say.

    I do applaud GM for creating the Volt, the Spark EV and the ELR. They are pretty nice 1st gen cars. It's obvious GM knows electrification is coming and they can't afford to cede the market. However, their converted steel ICE models won't stack up well in the future against the purpose built EVs, like the Model S and i3. They need to design real EVs from the ground up, using lighter materials and better battery placement.

    I also applaud their investment in Envia systems. Because of Tesla, everyone will expect 200-300 mile EVs in the next couple of years. If they can't produce an EV with more range, they are going to get crushed by the Gen III.

  70. ELR looks a bit disappointing.. It should be geared to a 0-60 of less than 7s and they probably should have waited for better battery chemistry.

  71. In order for that to happen, GM would have to change the gearing ratio to make that happen. With that, you will also lose efficiency at higher speed. But that would also mean that there will be 2 version of Voltec powertrain and increasing cost at the end. ELR is really a "super niche" product segment.

  72. I agree with what you said, but to be fair, almost NO other company is inventing electric from ground up except for Tesla. Even the Leaf is on a somewhat shared chassis with Versa. The big automakers want to save $$$ on cost, so the more parts it shares with existing platform, the lower the cost. Even Tesla doesn't make money on per car basis. I don't believe i3 will be profitable either.

    That is why when the next platform is here, GM needs to make sure the platform had EV in mind. I think the next generation Volt will impact what GM does with its compact car platform.

  73. Tesla does make money on a per car basis! It's the costs of installing super-chargers, service centres, etc... that out weighs the profit from selling cars.

    In other words, the cars Tesla sells, the less loss or more profit it makes!

    With the Volt, I believe that they actually cost more to make than they get from selling them. In other words they lose more money for GM if they sell more of them. This is the fundamental reason why so many manufacturers will only make the barest minimum of electric cars, they want to be in the market, unless it really takes off (or they want to the ZEV credits), but it costs them more money the more they sell!

  74. Sorry that should ready:

    "the MORE cars Tesla sells, the less loss or more profit it makes!"

  75. Even this website has reported Tesla can't make a profit from selling cars. Only credits.

  76. @Joey: Not exactly. We reported that *in Q1* the credits swung Tesla from a loss on its carmaking to a profit:

    That may not be the case for its Q2 financials, which will be reported after the markets close on Wed, August 7.

  77. @James Cooke,

    Actually I believe GM makes profit on per Volt. It just doesn't make money if you include the initial tooling and R&D cost.

    If selling more Volt will cost GM more loss, then GM wouldn't have any incentives to discount the Volt to keep up with the competition. But it does and there is NO limit on how many Volt GM wants to sell. In fact, GM wants to sell as many Volt as they want.

    This is also why GM provided the $4k discount on Volt running right now and dealer lots are filled with its inventory.

  78. profit, no profit its tuff to say. GM has to include the cost of R&D and initial tooling into the cost of the volt. on individual cars they probably are making a profit but for the Volt line they are probably losing money. GM has already announced that next gen Volts will be $10,000 cheaper to manufacture.

  79. No way man.

    "That 80k breaks down this way: Each Volt currently has $56,000 in fixed costs – $18,650 in development costs and $37,350 in tooling costs – as well as $24,000 in parts and labor, according to the consultants. With each Volt sold, the $56,000 will drop by a little bit, but it's a slow process. Reuters says GM has invested an estimated $1.2 billion into the Volt program so far and when you divide $1.2 billion by the 21,500 Volts sold in the U.S. so far, you get $56,000. This does not take advertising and marketing costs into account, or the number of Volts (and Opel Amperas) sold overseas. In response, GM issued a statement clarifying just how much Reuters is relying on current sales numbers to get to the $80k number,"

  80. Our takedown of this kind of calculation, way back in Dec 2011:

  81. "no way man"

    You are quoting a 1 yr old article to rebuff my reasoning that clearly stated that the profit exclude the initial tooling and R&D cost...

    Also, the Volt sales has been up to 40,000 units now. That $80k number should drop at least by half with 2x volume...

  82. Pat, your grasp of a basic concept called marginal cost seems limited, to be honest. Not to mention using only 21.5K in sales is remarkably outdated and inaccurate. Every single sale and lease drives down the overall production price, of course. By using half of the actual sales to date, you've doubled the cost of development for each actual Volt, of course. So the $56K you quote is already below $28K and will continue to drop over the next few years.

    As is noted by John V. below, since the Voltec powertrain will likely be used by GM for many years, the development costs per vehicle will actually be far lower than even I stated. In 1-2 years, it will cost GM about $35K to make this and that ignores battery and other savings coming.

  83. This is always why the Model X will share a lot of its features and parts with its sister, the Model S.

  84. @Bret. I agree. Tesla has a real opportunity to generate significant sales with it's upcoming Gen III if they can successfully produce and sell a stylish yet practical BEV automobile for under $35,000 that has 200 or more miles of driving range. This will pretty much crush the sales of the traditional automakers 73-82 mile range EV's in this price range. I can see no other option but for the traditional automakers to increase the size of the battery packs to offer a similar amount of driving range or lose sales. Range anxiety becomes less important when an EV can be driven a similar distance on a charge when compared to ICE car can do on a single tank of gas and when a quick charging infrastructure of 30 minutes or less is readily available

  85. When they are interested in building a truly competitive vehicle they can do it. We see this with the Corvette and the Volt. The Volt is everything I had hoped the Prius Plug In would be. I just wish I had bought the Volt first....

  86. My questions is more, how will they deal with the threat?

    My fear is that they will not be able to adopt Tesla-like practices and instead be 'forced' (in their minds anyway) to 'protect the shareholders' by actively trying to disrupt Tesla's development; Heavyweight media disparagement of pure electric cars perhaps? Will we see the return of FUD? Big research reports announcing that batteries bigger than the Volt happens to have, cause brain ache that may affect your children health and stop flowers from growing? People mysteriously loosing a leg after buying a Tesla? You know, the usual stuff.

    Or, perhaps more lobbying; All pure electric cars that can go more than 100 miles must include a klaxon on the front for 'safety'.

    Watch out!

  87. Wow, I must have crossed over into bizarroworld by mistake. Just a silly comment, of course. GM is spending billions developing EVs/PHEVs, but you think they'll rely on ridiculous propaganda that would be laughed at by almost all consumers.

    I'll let GM know they should save billions immediately by stopping work on the Spark EV, ERV, Volt, the in-house electric motors factory, the new and improved facilities used to design, engineer and test EVs, etc...

    Please, Michael, since Tesla has been much less a threat until now than Toyota or others have been for decades, list examples of what similar propaganda GM has used along these lines. When did GM attack hybrids? No, it adapted, and not well at first, just as it's adapting now.

  88. Well, they lobbied CARB to eliminate the ZEV mandates, they cut the EV1 program the second they won, they tried to trademark the term "Range anxiety", the told us that americans wanted "an electric car that goes far. Really far.", they implied that the Ampera had an ev range of 360 miles… etc. They have form & they have a lot to loose if their product isn't first in everyones minds.

    Sure, they're hedging their bets, though I suspect the Spark is just a compliance/halo car, but I am in suspect that their interest in Tesla is not to further their eco initiates but more about figuring out how these guys are making money &, I'm doubtful that GM will be able to copy Tesla - they're too old, they have too much baggage.

  89. So, you are one of those people... Can't get over the EV-1 thing...

    Range anxiety is real for those people that requires the range that are equal to or greater than the range that BEV can provide. So, there is NOTHING wrong by pointing it out. GM deals with it by using extenders. BMW is doing the same thing. Tesla is doing it by giving you a really large and expensive battery alone with a supercharging network and battery swapping capability. Different approach, but both at eliminating the range anxiety. Of course, GM is going to say their way is the best. But that is just business.

    What has Toyota done so far on EV? Do you ever whine about it?

  90. You're fixating on GM as a good versus evil organization, I was simply highlighting a past history of non-pro-ev behavior as asked for by robok2, so, back to my original comment:

    "My questions is more, how will they deal with the threat?"

    Let me know how _you_ think that they'll deal with it. I believe that they _won't_ be able to morph into a company structure like Tesla. They are too old. Just as IBM gave way to Microsoft, Microsoft gave way to Apple & Google, I think that GM should give way to Tesla. I see it as the natural order of the universe. My fear is that their last thrashing about will include an unhelpful attack on the new order.

  91. Last time I looked, both IBM and Microsoft are still doing just find.

    Apple isn't all that with their 20% slashing in iPhone production. Their "old idea" is running out steam. Even Google missed their "lastest" earning estimate.

    Tesla is just one play. GM as large as it is, doesn't own the world.

    I think it is "you" that has labeled Tesla as a "good vs. Evil" organization. GM might have spotty history, but nobody will know if it is the same company again.

    Remember that Apple was almost gone during the late 90s...

  92. Michael, pretty underwhelming definition of a conspiracy, I guess... An ad making the mileage seem different that it really is is an effort to stop EVs? Trying to trademark a term, too?

    And you suspect that GM wants to figure out how Tesla is making money? Wow, that would be terrible, a company attempting to learn from another.

    GM to this day has immense technical resources, of course. It's making billions a year, too. Whether or not Tesla or Nissan leads the initial low-volume sales of EVs or not, GM has spent billions developing its own products, which have seen great reviews.

    Sorry people like you are bitter about the EV1, but GM will be fine. Ask Nissan how those initial $6 billion EV costs has gone. Consumers won't care in 2017.

  93. What conspiracy? GM publicly apologized for that blunder. I think that the phrase from Rick Wagner was "Our biggest mistake." - You can't hold the current GM responsible for decisions made a decade ago.

    So, what do you think GM will find and how do you think they'll react?

  94. Michael, limited time today, unfortunately. GM can't compare itself to Tesla since Tesla has it much easier in some ways, much worse in others. GM has obstacles because Tesla has a tech lead in range but all technology evolves and Tesla won't always be #1. In range that is, sales, who knows?

    React? I'm puzzled... This isn't a major task force at GM looking to massively change GM because an extremely low-volume EV maker is doing well. GM is trying to learn technically, which started long ago, and also see about some customer service items which Tesla does well.

    GM can't replicate the dealer/store system of Tesla. Unlike Tesla, GM sells its cars to dealers and in most states, if you have dealers, you can't sell directly. Complete no go.

  95. And finally, Michael, I don't expect GM to do much. Observe and learn what's good about Tesla and concentrate on why Tesla is so much better technically. GM was doing this long before this post, of course.

    With most brands losing thousands or tens of thousands per vehicle now, there's simply no urgency in rushing to market with several EVs. make enough to learn, improve the low-volume EVs/PHEVs you are making or will make, then wait for the market & technology to bring down costs to the point that EVs are profitable. GM is a corporation that builds vehicles, not some utopian eco company, so profits will always be valued over pseudo-eco credentials.

    The Ampera ad was a non-issue from day one. Really? And GM's management is doing decently.

  96. @Michael Thwaite,

    "they implied that the Ampera had an ev range of 360 miles…"

    Well, that is your negative opinion due to your negative view on GM. It was stated as a fact that the car had a 360+ miles range. Volt is in fact an EV. (Maybe not a pure EV or Battery EV as someone would want but an EV nonetheless). Ads is about suggesting.

    Leaf had commercials to suggest that Polar Bear will come hug your or anything ICE is just terrible for all situations. And BMW always suggest its car can be driven at crazy speed around turns on windy roads...

    GM firmly believes in range anxiety and that ads was a direct aim at that.

    And we don't need to debate the merit of RA here. We all know its impact in real life.

  97. OMG! GM finally admits that Tesla is a threat! Gee, who would have thunk it? NO KIDDING. Every major automobile company KNOWS that the success of the EV destroys their whole business model! EV's almost never need servicing. So little can go wrong. Hardly anything ever to repair, so no money there. An EV can last forever. No sh*t the EV scares, and has ALWAYS scared the pants off the ICE/FF (internal combustion engine/fossil fuel) industrial complex, and has done so since the oil industry and Ford forced EV's off the roads some 100 years ago! It is a threat. It should be a threat. The ICE/FF industries are killing the planet the way the tobacco and alcohol industries kill individuals one by one. That industry should have died a long time ago

  98. So now it's Henry's fault?

  99. I don't see Tesla building a Ford F-150/250/350 version of Electric pickup without some major break through in technology. So, saying that is solve it all, once for all solution approach is just silly.

  100. Actually an electric pick up truck may work well since an EV can provide all it's torque from zero rpm to its redline. It would be interesting to see how well Tesla's Model X EVSUV does since it is designed to compete against truck based SUV's. If it can tow and haul as well a regular gasoline pickup it stands a chance that Tesla may design an electric pickup truck.

  101. I believe it is possible to haul and tow some for about 50-100 miles. But longer than that will be difficult especially in extreme weather.

    No truck drivers is going to switch out their "work horse" with a "limited" range battery truck.

  102. @Xiaolong: Not entirely true. Local utilities are quite interested in electric or plug-in hybrid heavy work trucks, since those vehicles typically cover very low daily mileages (often 20 or fewer).

    PHEV or electric trucks also have the highly desirable consumer-relations benefit of not having to run a diesel engine constantly to power hydraulic lifts, tools, generators, etc. Utilities very much crave a silent work truck--which homeowners whose houses they park next to will appreciate enormously. The challenge now, of course, is price.

    You are referring only to private truck owners, I suspect. There are a few duty cycles where electric trunks would do just fine.

  103. @JV,

    I agree. Some commercial trucks will work. However, the cost is very important to those purpose built trucks. Unless Tesla can keep them down to that level, it will be hard to make the case for it. Most of the time, those commercial trucks are stripped down/bare bone work trucks.

    I agree something like a PHEV with diesel will work great but a "battery ONLY" truck as in Tesla designs will have very limited appeal.

  104. an electric pickup may work better then a sedan.

    trucks aren't sporty, so carrying 1000 lbs of battery isn't no big thing,
    the hood is big and boxy, so lots of room for battery packs and the
    truck usually has a big frame so lots of places to bolt in battery. pickups don't often drive long distance, so, it's easy to charge on
    Level 2.

  105. Model X is a direct competitor of CAR based crossover. It has NO chance (as much as I love Tesla) against a truck based work horse.

    It won't able to tow or haul nearly as much as those truck based trucks.

    As far as torque goes, it is great, but how much battery do you think you need when you haul a 5,000 lbs pay load or tow 10,000 lbs of boat with today's battery?

    A 1,000 lbs battery is at best 100 KWh. If you have to tow a boat, you will be lucky to get 1-2 miles per KWh. Along with A/C and Heat usage, noboy is going to take a chance with BEV that doesn't have the range.

    We haven't even talked about F350/450 level hauling and towing...

  106. There are more comments in this thread
  107. If GM were really SMART, it would build ONLY electric cars from here on in. It would setup charging and battery swapping every place and replace the internal combustion engine models completely! But no, GM and the others are going to do what they have always done, fight reality and when they finally lose again, ask the government to bail them out! The question really should be, why is GM still building old fashioned gasoline fuelled cars? It could take the world by storm if it decided to LEAD instead of fighting losing, rear guard actions that they will ultimately lose, as they did against Japanese cars before the bailout.

  108. You have to make money first. Even Tesla hasn't shown it can.

    Also, last time I looked, the plugin sales are still below the hybrid sales of the market. Hybrids are less than 4% of the total auto market.

    I agree with your desire, not your time frame based on available infrastructure or technology.

  109. Embarrassing. Consumers aren't buying them in volume yet, unfortunately, and each sale means big losses, but GM should shut down the ICE production that makes it billions in profits a year and try selling only vehicles that the market doesn't need yet (in the ICE volumes of today) and that aren't profitable.

    Typical, of course that you criticize GM for not doing enough on the EV front, yet you're strangely silent on Toyota and Honda's almost nonexistent efforts.

    I might like EVs, drive a Volt and hope to have a Model S or BMW i3 in 2015, but I'd prefer that GM do what it's doing now, be profitable and continuing to improve its efforts. But unlike you, show some common sense and not demonstrate a commercially suicidal switch to only EVs.

  110. GM are bunch of lazy and conservative people. Tesla is not the threat GM is. A threat to our environment. Why they don't they start making deacent electric cars.

  111. @"Peter Peters": Perhaps you missed the article we posted yesterday?

  112. A little slow, are we Peter? yes, GM is lazy (all 100K employees globally, right?)and that's why it's spent billions developing the Volt, Spark EV, Voltec powertrain, etc... How telling that Chrysler and Honda are making little effort toward any EV but you conveniently left that little fact out in your usual obsessive need to attack your favorite bad guy, GM.

  113. Just the fact that GM has someone with clout saying this is encouraging. Will they actually do anything about it? My crystal ball is too cloudy to say, but should they sit up and take notice then we all benefit. One more thing to thank Elon Musk for.

  114. Tesla has done lots of innovative things with their Model S. The car is designed to be an electric vehicle rather than a conversion of a gasoline car. Skate board chassis design maximizes space inside the vehicle and provides a good foundation for designing other models such as the Model X. Tesla set out to make it's BEV the best car period in both ICE and BEV cars in its price range. The Model S performance is comparable or better than other ICE sport sedans and it's electric drive train is way more efficient than the Toyota Prius. Design sells and Tesla has designed a nice looking extremely functional body style that is as good or better than any thing offered in the Automotive industry. GM is scared because Tesla has made a great car.

  115. Its not a fair comparison. Tesla manufactures 1 car and has to provide parts/service on only 2 cars. IMHO I'm sure the public will accept the idea of "ordering" the car in the color and only the options you want instead of buying off the lot and paying more.

  116. GM has problems, chief among them is their dealers.

    Most GM dealers I have done business with are excellent, but it only takes a few rotten apples to destroy the barrel. These bad dealers gouge with excessive mark-ups and padded repairs, replacing items that did not require replacement.

    The problem is that GM has no power to discipline these dealers, because State laws are so strong in favor of dealerships. GM cannot remove their license or refuse to deliver cars. If these laws were struck down, GM could get rid of these bad dealers and they know it. That is one reason they are fighting so hard against Tesla in the courts as they fear their license could be removed.

  117. You know what large companies do with smaller companies they perceive as them. What's the over/under on one of the big boys buying Tesla and just adding their vehicle(s) to the line up? I'll give it less than 5 years.

  118. Big oil should be shaking in their boots as well since gas is becoming SO 20th Century.....

  119. GM should rather revive the EV1 with an update (they could call it EV2). At $25,000 to $30,000 and 150-mile range, it could sell like doughnuts, and they already have a platform to work with, so its development would cost much less.

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