Monday June 15, Mary Barra held a phone event for the Automotive Press Association in Detroit. Here are a few standout comments, paraphrased and lightly edited, that I found interesting.
Ms. Barra asked to make a statement prior to the Q&A formatted conference. First off, “2020 will go down in history as a tragic year.” Amen.
She addressed production, civil rights, trucks, SUVs and EVs in an hour-long, highly informal event.
“EV programs are on track,” (Executive VP Mark Reuss had days earlier commented on the GMC Hummer being delayed to a Fall 2020 launch). On the lack of inventory at dealers, “What we’re calling full production…will rebuild inventory soon, particularly in trucks and SUVs”
“Truck plants are running three shifts… should get constrained products back into dealer hands… by the end of summer, depending on demand. …I think we will be running full out for the foreseeable future on pickups.”
Asked about a Car Wars report on GM’s EV strategy Barra said her words and context were sub-optimum. She’s not seeing the multi-decade pause to EVs because of product, more as a result of the 11.4 average fleet age which will take a very long time to change significantly “…The pause, because we have the Bolt, which customers love… We announced the Hummer… and we will have a steady drumbeat of products. After Hummer, there’s Cruise EV autonomous vehicle that’s fully electric…”
She talked about new Cadillac internal combustion products, as well as others in the pipeline and, when asked about what we might have seen this month at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit responded with “EVs, AVs front, and to share with the world our first-class full-sized SUVs, plus the anxiously awaited Corvette…”
According to Barra we can expect more product launches this year in the virtual domain as GMC Hummer, Cadillac and perhaps others make their appearance “with no specific date, but yet this year.”
Questioned about the collapse of ride sharing and its effect on their Cruise AV, she spoke about how the vehicle was designed to offer space for people, or cargo, with materials chosen to provide cleanliness. Also that an AV takes one person out of the vehicle environment. “We see huge opportunity and it’s why we continue to pursue (EV and AV) technology.”
She also spoke about the company’s Super Cruise and Ultra Cruise semi-autonomous driving assistance tech that now appears in Cadillac, with the company hoping to drive down cost so it can populate other brands and products.
In open Q&A Barra also talked about how GM sees EVs as something that “will allow the company to grow… ‘We’re not as strong on the coasts as we are in the middle and EVs are a growth opportunity.” She also said that the Detroit-Hamtramck facility devoted to Electric Vehicles is on track despite recent challenges.
In all, it was more reassuring than earth shaking. But that’s GM.