DETROIT — General Motors’ volume brands, Buick and Chevrolet, will offer U.S. consumers more all-electric vehicles in the future even as GM declares its luxury brand, Cadillac, as its EV leader.
“We were the first to bring a long-range EV to market with the Chevy Bolt EV,” said Steve Majoros, Chevrolet’s marketing director for cars and crossovers. “Cadillac will be the first brand to use GM’s new EV platform, but they won’t be the only one to use it.”
GM believes that within the next decade, electrification will play a larger role in transportation, said Cadillac President Steve Carlisle.
Majoros said Chevrolet will continue to be a part of GM’s electrification strategy, even as GM plans to kill the Volt, an electric car that’s backed up by a gasoline generator, later this year.
Likewise, Buick plans to leverage a series of upcoming vehicle launches in China over the next few years to add EVs to its U.S. lineup, said Phil Brook, Buick and GMC’s vice president of marketing.
Majoros, Brook and Carlisle spoke to the Free Press on the sidelines of the Detroit auto show.
Last week, Cadillac showed a photo of what the brand’s first electric vehicle will look like, though it did not say when it would come to market, its name, where it will be built or other details.
The vehicle will be the first off a future platform GM is developing for EVs that will accommodate all-wheel, front- and rear-wheel drive vehicles across the automaker’s four brands.
GM has been working to build that platform since April 2018 at its design center in Warren, said Carlisle.
The first EV to come off that platform, as a Cadillac, will go to market in late 2021 or early 2022, Carlisle said.
GM CEO Mary Barra said Cadillac will be known by consumers for its innovation.
“Taking the lead in innovation and technology will make Cadillac Cadillac again,” Barra told reporters at a media event in Detroit where the EV was shown along with Cadillac’s new 3-row SUV the XT6.
Also, the EV space is fiercely competitive and GM needs extra market reach and more EV options to offer consumers, said Majoros.
“Chevrolet has been fighting a lot of different competitors, even up to Tesla,” said Majoros. “If you’re in the electric space, you have to consider a Bolt EV too.”
Globally, Buick is GM’s second largest brand, behind Chevrolet, due largely to Buick’s popularity in China. For the full year 2017, Buick sold 1.2 million vehicles in China, said Brook. Last year’s final sales numbers are not yet officially tallied, he said.
China leads the world in EV sales. In 2017, about 770,000 EVs were sold there, according to Forbes, nearly four times those sold in the United States.
China has provided subsidies to EV buyers and incentives to makers of EVs, especially electric buses. But the rules changed last fall, and China’s government now requires carmakers that sell 30,000 or more cars a year to make fleets with increasingly higher fuel economies by 2020 and 2025. For carmakers, it means building and selling more EVs there.
In the first half of this year, Buick will launch a new EV SUV in China called the 2020 Buick VELTE 6, Brook said. That vehicle and several other EVs Buick will launch in China in upcoming years will, “Allow us to pick and choose the (electric) vehicles for the U.S. market,” said Brook, who added Buick does not have a definitive EV plan for the United States market yet.
But GM’s decision to make Cadillac the vanguard for its EV program was not solely around the strong EV sales in China, said Carlisle.
“We face challenges equally in China and across all other markets,” said Carlisle. “Cadillac tends to be its best when it’s focused on innovation and technology and consumers gravitate towards technology.”
Cadillac also attracts high-income customers who are able to overcome the “pain points” of current EV ownership, such as range anxiety.
“If you’re an EV buyer, you likely have other cars in garage,” Carlisle said.