Legacy automakers are worried about how they will remain profitable as the EV revolution moves forward. The profit margins on electric vehicles are lower than manufacturers are accustomed to, so they are searching for new ways to create revenue.
One way of doing that is leveraging the over-the-air update capability (pioneered by Tesla, of course) to allow drivers to subscribe to various upgrades and premium features. Tesla has made noises about offering its full self-driving software on a subscription basis.
General Motors has an Investors Day event coming up on October 8 and would love to see the investment community fall in love with its stock. It is embarrassing that GM is valued at less than 10% of Tesla’s market capitalization. It thinks its new Ultifi software platform can change that. (Ultifi software platform, Ultium battery platform. Both are the ultimate, get it?)
According to the Autoblog, Ultifi will start appearing in GM vehicles in 2023. “Ultifi is a big, big step in our software strategy,” Scott Miller, GM’s vice president of software-defined vehicles said last week. “Today, cars are enabled by software, with Ultifi, cars will be defined by it.”
Alan Wexler, GM’s senior vice president for innovation and growth, added that GM’s new business model extends beyond just building cars to becoming a software platform innovator. He explained the General will offer owners services beyond simply driving, services that can then be used in their homes and other areas of their lives. He calls the new business model, “a potential game changer for delivering subscription services that create recurring revenue.”
A New Business Model
Ultifi is the first step in GM’s new business model, Scott Miller said. It builds on GM’s current vehicle intelligence platform (VIP). Think of VIP as a smartphone and Ultifi as the operating system that provides the functions. Ultifi holds the potential for more cloud-based services, faster software development, and new ways for GM to increase customer loyalty.
“At our core, we’re going to make great cars, trucks and vehicles,” Miller said. “What we’re talking about is adding a platform with Ultifi. (Customers) will love it when they buy it, but they’ll love it even longer as it gets better. When the next new thing comes out they can add it to their vehicle and not have to go buy a new car so this improves the relationship with them.”
Similar to software on a smartphone, Ultifi can provide regular updates and let customers choose from a variety of over-the-air upgrades, personalization options, and apps. For example, imagine a camera inside your car that recognizes your face and starts the engine for you. Or, the camera can detect if there’s a child in the back seat. Miller said those services would not be subscription-based.
Another example would be a weather forecast with the ability to close a vehicle’s windows if it’s parked in an area where it’s expect to rain, Miller said. Or an alert that warns drivers of specific icy spots on roads.
Customer who buy a car equipped with Ultifi will have access to various plans that will allow them to choose the upgrades, kinds of services, and software or apps they want to access. “The key thing about Ultifi is we like to call it continuous integration,” Miller said. “We’re separating the software from the hardware so we can continuously upgrade apps. It will allow us to be very agile and constantly learn how to make it better.”
Ultifi Is Linux-Based
In a press release, GM says customers will benefit from Ultifi’s advanced cloud-based connectivity to seamlessly integrate important aspects of their digital lives. Based on route planning and GPS, teen driver settings could be adjusted for extra caution in a school zone or vehicles could even communicate with a smart home to deactivate the security system and adjust the thermostat.
Similarly, the cloud connectivity could potentially extend to V2X or vehicle-to-everything applications to help advance GM’s goal of zero crashes and zero congestion. Through communication with other connected devices and infrastructure, drivers could be alerted to hazards or changing road conditions and be able to effectively time traffic signals.
“Increased flexibility and faster software development are two major benefits of this new technology,” said Scott Miller. “Our in-house developers are designing Ultifi to maximize software reuse, which frees up more time to create value-adding features and services for our customers.”
Though Ultifi is an in-house platform, it’s being designed with external developers in mind. It uses Linux software, one of the most widely used platforms, which allows GM to give authorized third-party developers access to innovate on behalf of its customers.
Details Coming This Week
According to Autoblog, at Investor Day this week, GM will provide more details about its electric vehicle plans after the Hummer, EV600, and Cadillac Lyriq, plans that include electric versions of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra full-size pickup trucks.
GM says it will launch at least 20 new electric vehicles in the United States — mostly pickups, SUVs and crossovers — through early 2028, according to Auto Forecast Solutions, whose data is based on planning information provided to suppliers by the automakers. It predicts that in 2023, GM will introduce the Cadillac Celestiq sedan (which is expected to sell for well over $100,000) and the Chevy Blazer SUV.
After that, GM plans to introduce another five EV models in 2024, two in 2026, two in 2027, and another in 2028. Among the future entries are electric versions of the Cadillac Escalade, Chevrolet Tahoe, and GMC Yukon SUVs, and a new Cadillac crossover called Symboliq.
Speaking about GM’s new Ultium battery platform, its blossoming relationship with LG Energy Solution, and the introduction of the Ultifi platform, Ken Morris, GM vice president of EVs and AVs, said at a conference last week, “We’re really knitting together all elements of our growth strategy.”
If we may be permitted a modest quibble here? We would be more delighted with GM’s electric vehicle plans if they included some affordable offerings and fewer behemoths that weigh 7,000 pounds or more. The porky Hummer is slated to tip the scales at nearly 5 tons. That’s insane! GM’s electric SUVs and pickup trucks won’t be far behind.
The consensus around the swim-up mojito bar at CleanTechnica intergalactic headquarters is that we would like to hear about vehicles that do more with less, like the rumored Tesla Model 2, the Volkswagen ID. 2, and the new SUV from Geely that sells for under $10,000. When GM starts thinking in terms of smaller, lighter, less expensive electric cars, that’s when we will believe it fully supports the EV revolution.