Is GM Making An EV Comeback?

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GM’s press release announcing end of quarter sales numbers finally had what we’ve all hoped to see: recovering EV sales figures! But, numbers are never anything without context. So, in this article, I’m going to cover what GM revealed and then discuss whether this means GM’s EV effort is back on track or not.

GM’s EV Sales Are Setting Company Records

Before I get to the reasons to be skeptical and cautious with GM’s commitment to EVs, I do have to acknowledge that the company is doing better than ever on EV sales. For the first half of 2024, the company boasts 38,355 EV deliveries, of which 21,390 were in the second quarter. This pace of sales even exceeds what GM saw when the company cut the prices for Bolt EVs and EUVs in 2022 and 2023.

What put the company on better EV sales footing? GM didn’t get into details on that, but the company did share that 40% of Blazer EV buyers are new GM customers, and they’ve been sniped from Jeep, Ford, and Hyundai/Kia. In the case of Jeep, this is easily explained by the lack of BEV Jeeps in the lineup, but Ford and Hyundai both have well-established and well-selling EV programs (relatively speaking). So, it’s not totally explained by eroding brand loyalty in the face of lackluster EV offerings by the competition.

The rising sales are likewise not readily explained by new models hitting the streets. The Equinox EV and the non-fleet version of the Silverado EV both came out only recently. This means that other models that have been around a little longer (the Lyriq, Blazer, etc) are carrying the weight here.

The Previous Record GM Beat Sheds Light On The Company’s Situation

If we want to understand what’s happening to GM’s EV sales numbers, we have to look at what today’s sales record beat. In short, sales are only now surpassing the record sales that came in 2022 and 2023 when the Bolt Bros were discounted.

While I love my Bolt EUV, I’m not stupid enough to not see that the model has some serious drawbacks, with the 55 kW DC fast charging limit being chief among them. But, as the 98th Rule of Acquisition states, “Every man has his price.” So, when GM set the price for Bolts and EUVs low enough to make for a compelling offering, the company made and sole more of them than anticipated. This led to some serious interests in the vehicle and even love for the nameplate, despite the fire recall. 

The big difference between 2022-23 and now is that GM doesn’t have a bargain basement EV offering driving sales. Instead, most of the current growth is in the luxury market where GM would like it to be. After all, margins are generally better higher in the market. Even the cheapest Equinox EV is priced in the 40,000s before incentives or credits, and that’s a lot higher than the sub-$30k MSRPs we saw with the Bolts.

Bottom line here: GM is carving out sales the company is earning in higher segments and not just on price.

Will Sales Keep Rising At This Rate?

While I’d love to be able to tell you that we’re in for some serious EV sales that might even compete with bigger EV players like Tesla, that’s far from clear. So, instead, I’ll discuss things that could lead there and what might get in the way of that.

First off, let’s take a direct quote from GM’s press release to identify the biggest threat to EV sales: “We have an incredible portfolio of diverse vehicles and we’re flexible, so we can win as more customers embrace EVs and we can keep winning if they want to stay with the engine technologies they know,” said Marissa West, GM senior vice president and president, North America.

Basically, the company is hoping to follow wherever the customers lead it. This makes sense from a financial perspective (the only perspective that keeps a company alive in the long run), but at the same time, it signals that the company doesn’t intend to be a leader on EVs. Companies like Tesla and Hyundai/Kia are trying to lead customers toward EVs, while GM is signaling a more cautious approach.

This, of course, doesn’t guarantee failure, but it doesn’t look great either.

But, GM’s EV situation isn’t all doom and gloom. The company’s plans for a refreshed Bolt EUV with a lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) battery shows that GM could re-open the budget EV market with a vengeance. If done right, this could mean quickly doubling EV sales, as a low-price Bolt that charges faster than 100 kW would be a hell of a deal. If GM does it right, we could see budget sales numbers exceeding 2023 Bolt sales combined with growing upper segment sales.

”Does it right” is key, though. A refreshed Bolt needs to have a good charging curve and not come with any serious drawbacks to do even better than the last batch of 55 kW Bolts. If the charging isn’t significantly faster or the vehicle has other issues that make it a bad deal, sales could very well fall short of previous record Bolt sales and leave the company in a bad position on EVs.

Recent testing of the Equinox EV leaves this in more doubt than I’d like. 

It could be that GM intends to improve the Equinox EV’s charging curve with software updates, or it could be that owners are stuck with a charging curve that’s going to suck for the duration of ownership. If the revised LFP Bolt can’t hold 150 kW for longer and stay above 100 kW until at least 60%, people are going to find that it’s not a lot faster than the first-gen Bolt. This would make sales suffer, to say the least. If the company’s more expensive vehicles, like the Equinox EV, can’t improve and compete favorably against companies like Hyundai, that’s bad for the upper segment.

Bottom line here: quality matters, both for sales and for industry leadership. If the charging experience isn’t there and the company isn’t trying very hard to get people to buy an EV over a hybrid or straight gas machine, sales aren’t going to continue the upward trajectory. But, if the company can take EVs more seriously and provide a halfway decent charging experience, we could see great things come from GM’s EV sales in the next few years.

Image provided by GM.

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Jennifer Sensiba

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.

Jennifer Sensiba has 2022 posts and counting. See all posts by Jennifer Sensiba