General Motors says it has a plan to dethrone Tesla: the undisputed king of electric vehicles.
GM CEO Mary Barra said in November that the company responsible for the Chevy Volt would build a million EVs in 2025. The question is, how will it get there, and what steps will it take to dethrone Tesla, who produced more than 509,000 EVs in 2020 and delivered 98% of them.
“We are committed to fighting for EV market share until we are number one in North America,” Barra said after detailing the plans for 30 EV models by 2025. The project requires a $27 billion investment from one of the U.S’s most notorious automakers. But in the past, car companies have outlined their plans to beat Tesla, and they’ve continuously fallen short, not accounting for Tesla’s planned growth.
In 2012, GM was the undisputed leader in EVs. The Chevy Volt sold 23,461 units that year. Then Tesla came along with the Model S. Five years later, Tesla had figured out that it could build a mass-market vehicle with the Model 3, proving that it’s not about the number of models. Still, the focus should be on affordability and efficiency. Tesla showed that it had figured out the formula for a fun, fast, efficient, and affordable electric car. It was a riddle that legacy automakers that had the cash and infrastructure to develop hadn’t solved.
Despite the Model 3 giving Tesla and its frontman Elon Musk significant production issues, the vehicle has become the most popular EV in the U.S., China, and other territories. Led by the Model 3, Tesla held 58 percent of the U.S. EV market share in 2019, and Financial Post states that the automaker could own as much as 80 percent of the market share for 2020.
GM’s plan is simple: depend on its Ultium battery, which will amplify production and the development new, all-electric models. It plans to decrease the cost of battery production to the $100/kWh threshold, which will activate price parity with gas cars, in three years. It then plans to get that down to $75/kWh in 2025. These projections come from Emmanuel Rosner, an analyst with Deutsche Bank.
The problem is: Tesla detailed its complete roadmap to decrease the cost of its price per kWh during the company’s Battery Day event in September 2020, and it shows prices as low as $50/kWh.
This brings in significant possibilities for GM moving forward, especially if it can continue to leverage more affordable battery costs past 2025. However, it will need more help beating Tesla, which at this time, analysts see as the leader for the foreseeable future.
“Price is going to be what determines who is the market leader, and Tesla looks set to win on price for the foreseeable future,” Luke Gear, an analyst at IDTechEX, says.
Past the financials, Tesla’s growth, which is fueled by a strict and non-diversified focus on EVs only, gives the company an explicit advantage moving forward. On the other hand, GM has to combat the development of its 30 planned EVs with its existing fleet of gas-powered vehicles. Tesla can continue developing its EVs without any other distractions. Its name and reputation as the leader in the sector will help attract young and fresh engineering talent, especially in software and manufacturing, which are some of the company’s main focuses.
GM’s goal is considerably lofty, and its words will not win over the Tesla faithful who are critical of the companies who talk a big game but fail to back it up. Many automakers have come along with a plan to disrupt Tesla’s domination in the EV sector, only to figure out that building an effective EV goes past putting a battery pack into a familiar chassis. But even if they don’t become the leader, will it be considered a complete failure?
“If they keep putting out tons of great products…and they take a ton of share from Tesla, are their EV efforts a failure then? I would say no,” David Whiston of Morningstar said.