Most of us won’t be alive long enough to see it happen, but General Motors says it is thinking in a non-specific, general sort of way about building trucks with electric motors, God willing and the creek don’t rise. There’s even a possibility that electrified pickup trucks might sneak into the product mix, if buyers are willing to pay enough for them to make it worth GM’s time to build them.
That’s the sum and substance of a comment by Duncan Aldred, vice president of the GMC brand, to CNBC contributor Paul Eisenstein this week. “Certainly, it’s something we’re considering,” he said, when asked about the prospects of an all-electric version of the Sierra pickup. Aldred would neither confirm nor deny that there is any active program underway within the company to actually develop such a vehicle, preferring to hide behind the platitudes offered a year ago by CEO Mary Barra that the company is on a “path to an all-electric future.”
Wrong, Mary. Your company is not on a path to an all electric future. It is on a path to extinction, just like the whole human race if you don’t stop building gas sucking, pollution spewing monsters because you would rather cram a few more doubloons into your already overflowing wallet than face up to the existential climate crisis you and the rest of your Detroit based Gang of Three have helped create.
How deep in denial is GM? Aldred pointed out that batteries are expensive, which means companies like GM have to be willing to accept lower profit margins on electric vehicles. Since pickups generate some of the highest profits in the history of automobile manufacturing, GM might be able to shove batteries and electric motors into some of them without incurring the wrath of its shareholders.
David Cole, director-emeritus of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, drove home that point, He told Eisenstein, “It’s always a mistake to introduce a new technology on a lower-priced product. You have a better opportunity to cover costs if it’s on a high-end vehicle.” He suggested GM “wouldn’t be saying this if they weren’t really confident about doing it.”
The company “wants to be at the forefront of battery-electric technology,” he added. If the company is considering electrifying its GMC pickups, Cole says it would probably do the same for the Chevrolet Silverado pickups that are built on the same chassis, spreading the cost of development over a larger number of vehicles.
Ford is another company that says it is considering batteries and electric motors for its pickup trucks, sales of which help Ford stay afloat. But the question is, where are their battery factories? Where are their charging networks? Where are their teams of engineers working full time to bring electric vehicles to market? While they dither and put out press releases, companies like Tesla, Rivian, Workhorse, and Bollinger are busy bringing actual electric pickups to market.
It’s one thing for General Motors to want to be “at the forefront of battery-electric technology” and quite another to do it. The time for speeches and slogans is over. Either step up or step back, GM. Which will it be?