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Barra GM.jpg Steve Fecht
GM’s Barra at announcement of second Chevrolet EV.

GM’s Barra Says Dismiss Chatter, Electric Pickup Coming

News of the breakdown in talks between GM and Rivian earlier this month took a twist when crosstown rival Ford stepped in with a $500 million investment in the EV maker.

General Motors Chairman and CEO Mary Barra says the automaker will bring an electrified fullsize pickup truck to market in the wake of a breakdown in negotiations with EV maker Rivian, and the company’s autonomous-vehicle unit will receive another $1 billion of investment to ramp up its workforce and remain on track to deploy a driverless car this year.

“We intend to create an all-electric future that includes a complete range of EVs, including fullsize pickups and we will share more information when (it is) competitively appropriate,” Barra tells investors during a first-quarter earnings briefing.

GM neither confirmed nor denied it was in talks to take a stake in Plymouth Twp., MI-based Rivian, which burst into the EV segment last year with the unveiling of a battery-electric pickup and SUV. According to Rivian, the truck will launch in 2020 with a range of 410 miles (660 km). Pricing ranges between $69,000 and $72,500.

News of the breakdown in talks between GM and Rivian earlier this month took a twist when crosstown rival Ford stepped in with a $500 million investment in the EV maker. Ford intends to develop a new vehicle using Rivian’s platform as part of its previously announced, $11 billion electrification plan.

A key element of Ford’s investment leaves Rivian as an independent company as founder and CEO RJ Scaringe originally envisioned, whereas GM reportedly wanted it in its entirety. Ford has taken a similar approach with its AV work, buying a $1 billion stake in Argo AI to co-develop technology. Argo continues to operate with substantial independence.

GM chose to fully acquire its AV unit, Cruise Automation, for a reported $1 billion. It has since been renamed Cruise, with former GM President Dan Ammann named CEO of the San Francisco-based subsidiary late last year. Cruise founder Kyle Vogt shifted to president and chief technology officer.

GM will begin production on a second electric vehicle at its Orion Twp., MI, assembly plant. Orion builds the Chevrolet Bolt EV and will add another Chevy-badged EV at an undisclosed time, following a $300 million investment to accommodate the extra production.

Barra says Cruise continues to make “remarkable progress” toward deploying a robotaxi fleet later this year, and an update on that technology rollout also will come before the end of the year as the automaker looks to cash in on the rapidly growing mobility-as-a-service segment.

“We are very pleased with our position, and we look at this as the greatest engineering challenge of our lifetime,” she says, noting the shift to autonomous from piloted driving requires a changeover to 40% of a vehicle’s components and testing takes place in complex urban environments. “Look at the societal benefit that will happen when we unlock this, not to mention the multi-trillion-dollar market potential.

“Our approach, and the way that we are doing this from a fully integrated perspective and being the only one attacking it this way, and the continued improvement in our rate of (technology) iteration…I wouldn’t trade our position with anyone else,” Barra says.

Chief Financial Officer Dhivya Suryadevara reports GM’s intention to invest another $1 billion into Cruise, as the unit doubles its headcount to 2,000 employees this year. GM earned $2.1 billion in the first quarter on revenue of $34.9 billion.

TAGS: Industry
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