Incentives, credits, and compliance schemes can only get the electric vehicle market so far. The real test of its success will be when large, established automakers can get to a point when they can call them profitable.
On Wednesday, on a call with analysts to discuss the company’s fourth-quarter 2018 financial results, GM CEO Mary Barra said that’s a distinction that could come in the early 2020s.
While Barra deflected a question about GM’s potential electric-pickup project, she pointed to GM’s battery-development partnership with Honda and its strong position in China. “So I think we’re in a good position, driving our cell costs down,” she said.
Cadillac electric crossover SUV based on GM BEV3 modular platform
Although other vehicles are still due to take advantage of the platform used for the Chevrolet Bolt EV, the first profitable electric vehicle from GM may have a Cadillac badge. GM revealed earlier this year that, with a vehicle to launch around 2022, Cadillac will be the “vanguard” brand for a completely new electric-vehicle architecture termed BEV3.
In 2017, Barra called GM’s pivot toward EVs, autonomous-vehicle tech, and changing ideas about mobility “the biggest business opportunity since the creation of the internet.” At that time, Barra’s comments signaled a goal of profitability by 2021.
The company, which reported positive financial results for 2018 and for the most recent quarter, announced a massive restructuring in November, affecting thousands of manufacturing related cuts and five assembly plants at least temporarily shut down. It this week confirmed that 4,000 white-collar jobs are affected by this.
“We are intent on reinventing personal transportation, capitalizing on a trillion-dollar opportunity, while making the world safer, better, and more sustainable,” said Barra.