GM CEO Barra leans on price parity to take out Tesla in race to EV superiority

GM CEO Mary Barra speaks at an Axios-sponsored event. [Credit Lawrence Jackson/Axios]

General Motors CEO Mary Barra has plans to catch Tesla by mid-decade, and she plans to lean on cheaper electric vehicles that are more comparable in price to gas cars to do it. Ultimately, Barra plans to be out-manufacturing and out-selling everyone, including Tesla, by the mid-2020s.

“We’re taking all the steps to do it,” Barra said on Yahoo! Finance earlier this week. “We have said that by mid-decade, we will be selling more EVs in this country than anyone else, including Tesla.”

A lofty goal in its own right, GM wants to outpace the world’s most successful electric vehicle company in the matter of a few years, outmaneuvering the Austin-based car manufacturer and its vocal CEO Elon Musk. More affordable cars are the key to the plan, which Barra solidified during the interview. You have to be able to offer people non-luxury cars and non-luxury prices, something Barra seems to believe Tesla is not able to do currently.

“Remember, we’re not necessarily just selling at the premium end,” perhaps stabbing at Tesla’s lineup, which has gone from sub-$40,000 to a shade below $47,000 for its most affordable Model 3 trim level. “We’re going to have electric vehicles affordable at $30,000.”

Tesla has upped prices on its electric vehicles for over a year with unpredictable-but-steady cost increases. Earlier this year, CEO Elon Musk blamed “inflation pressure” for the rises in price throughout Tesla’s lineup. Nevertheless, the company has not necessarily felt the effects of the inflation as demand continues to funnel in at healthy levels. Tesla reported its biggest quarter in Q1 with 310,048 vehicle deliveries. It also demolished Wall Street consensus estimates on its financial spreadsheet, beating EPS projections by nearly $1 and beating revenue estimates by nearly $1 billion. “Basically, the future is very exciting. I’ve never been more optimistic or excited about Tesla’s future than I am right now,” Musk said on the call.

While GM offers several affordable electric options, starting with the $31,500 Chevrolet Bolt EV and the $39,900 Chevrolet Silverado EV, which is expected to hit the market in Spring 2023, the automaker hits other sectors too. Its GMC Hummer EV offers high-powered luxury functionality, but GM has struggled with getting it to customers. It also has the Cadillac LYRIQ, another luxury vehicle that costs $58,795. These two vehicles are at premium price points, but that is not GM’s ultimate focus.

“We’ve really worked to listen and understand what the customer is looking for,” Barra said, which is perhaps one reason GM chose to partner with Honda on a series of EV models that could hit the market in 2027.

GM is fourth in the global EV market share with 7.6 percent. Tesla led 2021 with nearly 14 percent of the global EV market.

As for the race to EV superiority, Barra believes it is more of a marathon than a sprint, vowing to catch up to Musk and eventually pass him.

“I think it’s a little bit longer game.”

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GM CEO Barra leans on price parity to take out Tesla in race to EV superiority
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