Europe is the world’s second largest EV market. (China is the largest.) EV sales in Europe are now about 20% of the new car market as oppose to only around 5–6% of the US market. For 90 years, GM had a presence in Europe through its Opel and Vauxhall brands, but it struggled to make a profit there. In fact, it lost money on its European operations for 16 straight years before selling both brands to what is now called Stellantis. It still sells the occasional Corvette or Cadillac there, but it has otherwise largely disappeared from the Old Continent.
But now, as the EV revolution picks up steam in the EU, Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors, told an audience this week, “About five years ago, we sold our Opel business to what is now Stellantis and we have no seller’s remorse from an internal combustion business. But we are looking at the growth opportunity that we have now, because we can re-enter Europe as an all-EV player. I’m looking forward to that.”
According to Global Fleet Management, last November, GM appointed Mahmoud Samara to be the managing director of GM Europe. Samara had been Cadillac’s North America head of sales and marketing, where he helped transition that brand to an all-electric lineup. His mission in Europe is to create a sustainable, profitable “non-traditional mobility start-up” for EVs and autonomous vehicles, software, connectivity services, logistics, and defense.
The new Cadillac Lyriq and electric Corvette may be candidates for European sales, but GM probably will leverage its newfound expertise in electric delivery vehicles first to gain a foothold there. In particular, the BrightDrop Zevo 600 and 400 vans could appeal to fleet operators, as will the battery-powered pallet mover known as the EP1. Autonomous vehicles from The General’s Cruise division could also provide ride-hailing or ride-sharing mobility services in some of Europe’s more densely populated cities.
It won’t be a cakewalk for GM, however, which has no manufacturing presence in Europe. Joe Phillippi of AutoTrends Consulting tells The Detroit Bureau, “[It] will be a dogfight” to contest local makers like VW and Ford, so GM “better be prepared to lose a boatload of money” on the way to profitability.
GM knows how to lose money on its European operations. Now the question is, does it know how to make money there? The new owners of the Opel division began making money on the brand within a year after taking control of it, which leads some to wonder if GM really knows how to do business in Europe.
GM has declined to say which of its upcoming EVs will be sold in Europe or when they will be offered to customers. Stay tuned. When we know more, you will know more.
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