General Motors launched its all-electric Chevrolet Silverado on Wednesday, formally entering a contest for the lucrative US pickup market against fellow Detroit giant Ford as well as Tesla and other electric vehicle upstarts.
Mary Barra, chief executive of the Detroit automaker, unveiled the vehicle in a virtual appearance at the Consumer Electronics Show, giving a wide-ranging keynote speech that also highlighted GM’s autonomous technology.
The GM announcement came a day after Ford said it would nearly double production capacity for the electric version of its top-selling F-150 pickup truck in the wake of soaring customer demand.
Meanwhile, Chrysler, another iconic American auto brand and the other member of Detroit’s “Big Three,” said Wednesday it plans to transition to an all-electric fleet by 2028, while its sister Ram brand pursues its own EV pickup trucks.
Electric vehicles still comprise only about three percent of new vehicle sales, but more significant offerings from Detroit’s Big Three are finally beginning to hit the market.
“The industry has been promising an EV movement for a long time, but it finally seems like it’s coming to fruition,” said Jessica Caldwell, executive director of Insights at Edmunds.com.
“Automakers are no longer introducing quirky EVs with limited mass market appeal; they are rolling out thoughtfully designed vehicles with longer ranges as well as more trucks and SUVs.”
– Cash cow –
With lofty profit margins, pickups have been a proven cash cow for Detroit’s Big Three, with enduring appeal to consumers drawn to an elevated driving platform and an image seen as rugged or independent.
Pickup trucks also garner reliable demand from businesses such as construction and energy companies.
In 2021 the three top-selling cars in the United States were again pickups, with Ford’s F-150 followed by the Ram Pickup and the Silverado.
Startup Rivian has initiated commercial deliveries of its pickup truck. Tesla has also eyed the US pickup market, with Elon Musk unveiling a vehicle dubbed the “Cybertruck” with a space-age look.
The American EV market is still “up for grabs,” Caldwell said.
“In the US, we only expect market share for EVs to reach four percent in 2022, so no company is out of the running, including those who are late to the game,” Caldwell said.
– ‘Sweet spot’ –
GM, which has announced a series of major EV investment drives over the last 18 months, began taking reservations for the 2024 Silverado at 1800 GMT.
The first Silverados are expected to reach fleet customers in the spring of 2023, with vehicles for other consumers starting in the fall of that year.
That puts the Silverado on a somewhat later timeframe than Ford’s F-150 Lightning, which is due to begin customer deliveries this spring.
But GM’s offering will come ahead of the EV pickup under Ram’s target of 2024. A Ram spokesman said there are no details now on “reveal or reservation” timing.
CFRA’s Garrett Nelson noted that Rivian was the first company with an EV pickup.
“Up until now, all the electric vehicles has been either sedans or SUVs,” he said.
“It’s an extremely popular vehicle type in the US,” said Nelson, who believes EVs could account for 30 percent of sales in 2030.
GM already began commercial deliveries late last year of its premium GMC Hummer Pickup, but Wednesday’s announcements offered vehicles with greater affordability.
Pricing for the Silverado begins at around $40,000, essentially identical to its main competitor, Ford’s F-150 Lightning. But the Silverado can price at more than twice that sum for versions with more amenities.
GM also confirmed plans to release in fall 2023 an all-electric version of the Chevrolet Equinox, a compact sport utility vehicle beginning at $30,000.
Barra, in an interview with CNBC, said the Equinox was priced in a “sweet spot,” along with the Silverado and an EV version of the Chevrolet Blazer.
“Chevy is our value brand,” she told the network. “When you look at the Silverado, the Equinox and the Blazer EVs, we’re going to be really well positioned to gain in the middle of the market.”