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Q&A: CEO Mary Barra discusses GM's shift to hybrids, EV strategy and more

Kalea Hall, The Detroit News on

Published in Automotive News

WARREN, Michigan — In her 11th year as CEO of General Motors Co., Mary Barra's latest test is to ensure that the Detroit automaker's coming electric vehicles reach profitability by getting mainstream consumers to buy them in competitive global markets.

But in the time since GM first declared it would become all-electric, industry regulations have changed and the pace in the demand for EVs has slowed. Even though EV sales surpassed 1 million for the first time in 2023, data shows they are slowing quarter to quarter. First-quarter EV sales rose 2.6% year over year, but fell 15.2% from the fourth quarter of 2023, according to Kelley Blue Book.

GM now plans to add plug-in hybrids to its North American lineup to meet federal regulations that take effect in 2027. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in March revealed its final auto emissions standards that give automakers more time to increase EV production. The rules don't require customers to buy EVs, but are a performance standard that allows automakers to determine their sales mix to comply with the greenhouse gas tailpipe emissions limits for light-duty vehicle fleets for model years 2027 to 2032 and beyond.

Barra, in an interview with The Detroit News last week, said the automaker now sees plug-in hybrids as part of the solution and expects them to arrive in North America in 2027.

GM isn't backing down on battery electric vehicles. Chevrolet has started delivering the mainstream Equinox EV and the retail version of the Silverado EV to dealer lots. GM will have more affordable trims of the Equinox, Blazer and Silverado EV in the second half of the year, which is also when Cadillac will expand its EV lineup with the Escalade IQ and Optiq. The automaker is aiming to build and wholesale between 200,000 and 300,000 Ultium EVs in North America in 2024.

Barra also talked to The News about GM's recent decision to downsize its Detroit headquarters by exiting the Renaissance Center, the automaker's charging partnership with Tesla Inc., its autonomous vehicle company, Cruise LLC, and many other topics.

 

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Question: Do you think it's inevitable that Chinese EVs will come into the United States?

Answer: It's hard for me to to know and say. All I know is because I take every competitor seriously ... we've got to stay focused on being able to compete with anyone everywhere. And that's what we're focused on. We do have very strong brands. From a design perspective, getting a lot of very positive recognition on our designs, but then we've got to continue to really be relentless on taking cost out of our business because this is a very competitive business.

Q: You're downsizing a great deal going from the massive Renaissance Center to two floors in the Hudson. Why do that? Why have most folks based in Warren?

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