The COVID-19 pandemic shut down auto manufacturing plants worldwide for several weeks and has forced designers, engineers, executives and marketers to work from home.
Despite the upheaval, General Motors continues “building toward an all-electric future,” with two EVs – the GMC Hummer and Cadillac Lyriq SUVs – still on schedule for production launch late next year, Ken Morris, GM’s vice president-electric and autonomous vehicles, tells journalists on a Tuesday conference call.
GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant, brought back from the brink of being mothballed as recently as a year ago, will build the two EVs and will represent the automaker’s first manufacturing site dedicated entirely to EV production.
The GMC Hummer EV’s public reveal was originally scheduled for May 20 but has been postponed due to COVID-19. Morris says the unveiling of both the Hummer and Cadillac EVs will occur before year’s end, although in a virtual environment if public-health concerns extend lockdowns.
Despite tens of thousands of deaths and economic devastation globally caused by the coronavirus, Morris sees a silver lining in the environmental benefits of people sheltering in place.
“We believe climate change is real – and for many of us that becomes even clearer now that we’re seeing images of clean canals in Venice, a smog-free Los Angeles and even never-seen-before views of the Himalayas from India,” Morris says.
“As a company, and as a global citizen, we have the ability and the responsibility to create a cleaner and healthier planet,” Morris says, reiterating GM’s $20 billion investment in BEV and autonomous-vehicle technology by 2025.
Powering the Hummer and Cadillac EVs, as well as the Cruise Origin self-driving electric shared vehicle, will be GM’s third-generation EV platform and new Ultium batteries, which are compatible with Level 2 and DC fast charging and can deliver up to 400 miles (644 km) of range on a full charge.
General Motors and Honda have been working jointly on propulsion technology, including two all-new Honda EVs based on GM’s new flexible global EV platform and Ultium batteries. GM plants in North America are slated to manufacture the Honda EVs beginning in 2024.
Morris says COVID-19 has not delayed or negatively impacted the GM/Honda joint venture.
Around mid-decade, Morris expects the EV market to reach a “pivot point” where sales will increase because consumers will recognize them as “great products.” About the same time, EVs should reach cost parity with conventional vehicles powered by internal-combustion engines, he says.
Meanwhile, Morris says he is not concerned that gasoline prices well below $2 per gallon across the U.S. could make EVs less attractive.
“We are agnostic in terms of gas prices,” he tells journalists. “I don’t think, once we get up and going, that gas prices would affect EV purchases.”