It was difficult to decide which news to lead with today until it dawned on me that the two stories were essentially two sides of the same coin. General Motors, after proclaiming that their big EV truck push would start next year, has admitted it’s not producing these trucks until 2025 at the earliest.
At the same time, a new report shows that full-size mainstream SUVs have grown in market share significantly this year among multiple automakers. While there could be some trimflation at play here, the market has stabilized, and the boom in giant SUVs is probably a sign of demand and not supply. Can you guess who is leading that charge? General Motors, of course.
On the topic of GM, there’s some bad news for its Cruise autonomous car unit. Plus, if you were a Stellantis exec hoping to get another free trip to Vegas, I’m about to spoil your breakfast.
GM Delays EV Trucks
The GMC Sierra EV debuted almost a year ago today, promising a range of 400 miles and a starting price of around $108,000. The goal was to begin production in late 2024 and sell the truck as a 2024 MY vehicle. Initially, GM was going to do the same for the more affordable Silverado EV. Then the company announced it was going to raise the price of the Silverado from an announced $40,000 up to a price much closer to $50,000.
Neither vehicle, it seems, will be produced in late 2024. Or early 2025. According to a GM statement given to Reuters, the Orion plant (which currently produces the Bolt and Bolt EV) isn’t going to be making trucks until late 2024:
The move is the latest sign that electric vehicle production and demand may not be as strong as forecast. GM had been set to begin production of the electric Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra in late 2024 at the suburban Detroit plant. The company said the plan now is to start it in late 2025.
GM said the change was being made “to better manage capital investment while aligning with evolving EV demand” but said the move does not impact its battery plant plans. GM said in July battery production at the Ultium joint venture plant Ohio has been hampered because “our automation equipment supplier is struggling with delivery issues.”
The automaker in July reiterated a previous target of building 400,000 EVs from 2022 through the first half of 2024, and projected EV revenue of $50 billion in 2025. GM has said it is targeting production of roughly 100,000 EVs in the second half of 2023.
All of GM’s new electric vehicles are supposed to ride on variations of the company’s electric car platform and use the company’s Ultium battery pack.
Right now that means BrightDrop vans (which seem very good), a small number of Hummers, and a slowly increasing number of Cadillac Lyriqs for journalists, Lyft drivers, and Jamie Lee Curits for some reason. I love Jamie Lee Curtis so I’m just going to roll with it (she’s so good in The Bear, she’s still got it). [Editor’s Note: I’ve actually seen Jamie Lee Curtis driving her Lyric in Santa Monica. Yes, I’ve gone Hollywood. -DT].
It’s difficult to discern how much of this is supply delay and how much of it is demand, though demand definitely plays into it. While the new trucks will be built at the company’s Orion plant, the canary in the coal mine for Ultium is BrightDrop, and production of those vans is halted until next spring due to a shortage of battery modules.
Oh, and speaking of demand, I suggest you head on down to this second story in this Morning Dump:
Americans Can’t Stop Buying Full-Sized SUVs
What recession? What bad economy? Automakers are selling full-sized SUVs like they were dry socks at this year’s Burning Man.
Registration data from global intelligence firm S&P Global Mobility shows just how much the category of full-sized SUVs (think Expedition and Suburban) are selling this year:
S&P Global Mobility projects US retail sales at 15.4 million units this year, up from 13.9 million units in 2022. From that total, registration data show total full-size utilities leaping to 3.5% cumulative year-to-date share through June, compared to a 1.9% level 10 years ago and 2.6% in 2019. Mainstream full-size SUV share has risen from 1.2% a decade ago to 2.3% this year, while luxury models’ share has bumped up from 0.7% to 1.2%.
That is a not-small increase, and represents a lot of new vehicles, even if it isn’t the majority of the market (which is dominated by compact and mid-size crossovers and pickup trucks).
The models leading this growth are the Ford Expedition, with registrations at 24,347 units through June — up 43.8% year-over-year, and the Chevy Suburban, up 31.4% to 17,293 units. Even the dominant Chevy Tahoe managed to increase by 4.5% year-over-year to 24,511 retail registrations over that time period.
Luxury full-size SUVs are also doing well, with the redesigned Range Rover absolutely clobbering fools, up to more than 8,000 registrations compared to just over 2,600 in the same period last year. The category-leading BMW X7 is down a bit, by around 4.4%, but the overall luxury space is strong.
The biggest losers appear to be the Wagoneer, Grand Wagoneer, and Mercedes GLS.
A simple conclusion here might be that buyers still have purchasing power and still want gas-guzzling full-sized vehicles. That has to partially be true. I think the fact that the GLS and BMW X7 lost ground while the comparable electric Mercedes EQS and BMW iX gained it shows that full-sized luxury buyers could be open to electric vehicles.
If I were a General Motors planner I’d probably be pushing hard to get the Cadillac Escalade iQ into production as fast as possible.
GM’s Cruise Unit Under Review Due To Pedestrian Interference
Building cars is hard. Building autonomous cars is even harder, as GM’s Cruise autonomous vehicle subsidiary is discovering. In addition to being yelled at by the police, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating whether Cruise vehicles are inadvertently driving into crosswalks and harming pedestrians.
NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation said that it’s received two reports involving pedestrian injuries from Cruise vehicles. It’s also identified two additional incidents from videos posted to public websites. The office said the total number of relevant pedestrian incidents is unknown. It opened an investigation on Monday.
“Cruise’s safety record over 5 million miles continues to outperform comparable human drivers at a time when pedestrian injuries and deaths are at an all-time high,” Cruise spokesperson Hannah Lindow said in a prepared statement. “Cruise communicates regularly with NHTSA and has consistently cooperated with each of NHTSA’s requests for information –– whether associated with an investigation or not –– and we plan to continue doing so.”
The ODI said its investigation is being opened to help determine the scope and severity of the potential problem, including causal factors that may relate to ADS driving policies and performance around pedestrians, and to fully assess the potential safety risks.
This comparison of limited autonomous vehicle routes to regular, human-driven vehicles is a little bit of a pet peeve of mine. Yes, autonomous vehicles are by and large safer, but they’re also being used in more restricted circumstances. Additionally, society doesn’t want robot cars that are a little safer, they need to be an order of magnitude safer to be worth the anxiety folks have about robots driving cars on public streets.
Pack Up The Shrimp, No Stellantis Party In Vegas
Want to know a secret? I am not a Las Vegas person. If you are, that’s awesome. Enjoy it. Everyone needs a place to go, and the world would be boring and crowded if everyone stormed Big Sur or Venice or Lake George or wherever you want to go.
As the Detroit Auto Show has waned in importance, the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas (aka CES), has become more of a key venue for automakers. At the show earlier this year, Stellantis showed off the Ram REV concept. This year? Ain’t no party like a Stellantis CES party because a Stellantis CES party is, reportedly, not happening according to the Automotive News:
On Tuesday, Stellantis said it’s canceling its display and presentations at the January event “as part of the contingency plan implemented since the beginning of UAW strike.” The company issued a statement saying it is “executing comprehensive countermeasures to mitigate financial impacts and preserve capital, and will continue to demonstrate its transformation into a mobility tech company through other means.”
It added: “Preserving business fundamentals and therefore protecting the future of the company is a top priority of Stellantis leadership.”
I don’t think what Stellantis is trying to say here is that the company’s employees blew a bunch of money on blackjack, but it does inadvertently sound like that, right? I will say that all the Stellantis employees I know are fine, responsible, upstanding people.
The Big Question
How long will it take for General Motors to sell 200,000 electric vehicles a year in the United States? So far this year it looks like GM could deliver 100,000 EVs.