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Did GM Just Confirm the Corvette E-Ray, or a Cadillac Sports Car?

CEO Barra details EV, autonomy strategy at Barclay’s Auto Conference

An “expressive luxury low-roof” battery electric-powered model that’s part of General Motors’ plan for at least 20 new EVs by 2023 caps a roundup of cars, trucks, and SUVs that CEO Mary Barra presented in rough, undetailed form, to Barclay’s Global Automotive Conference, Wednesday.

Is it a Chevrolet Corvette e-Ray? A high-end Cadillac electric sports car?

Barra offered no such details. Her presentation was designed to prove to investors that GM has a future worthy of the market cap that has graced profit-free Tesla for several years.

In her presentation, she sought to convince investment analysts that the world’s third-largest automaker, and one of its oldest, is at the forefront of EVs, autonomous vehicles, and car sharing.

Barra’s presentation chart-set includes a rendering of one of two crossover/utility vehicles appearing in showrooms by calendar year 2020. We think the rendering looks like a tall-ish Chevy CUV version of the current Chevrolet Bolt.

Seeking Alpha’s Anton Wahlman think it looks like a Buick EV CUV. In either case, it’s clear that the two EV CUVs due by ’20 will include one Chevy and one Buick, the latter a prime candidate for production in China.

“Due to regulations and the nature of the Chinese market, the size of the Chinese market, we believe that it will become the world’s largest new energy vehicle market,” Barra told the analysts. “We are uniquely positioned as the number-two market share leader in China.”

After the two Chevy Bolt-based CUVs, GM will introduce the new, more flexible EV platform in 2021. So an e-Ray Corvette would not be based on the same platform as the midengine C8 Corvette expected to premiere at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this coming January.

Since we don’t know whether a sports car configuration of the Gen II EV platform will have enough connection with the C8 platform, badging the “expressive luxury low-roof” car a Cadillac is an intriguing alternative.

The other models launching between 2021 and ’23 on the new EV platform, according to Barra’s presentation are:

  • Five-passenger luxury SUV (which means Cadillac).
  • Five-passenger compact SUV (Chevrolet).
  • “Shared” autonomous vehicle, likely a small shuttle-bus (GMC or Chevy).
  • Functional light-commercial vehicle, an urban delivery van (GMC and/or Chevy).
  • “Efficient” low-roof car (could be a Chevy, but we’d put our money on Buick or Cadillac).
  • Small SUV (Chevy, possibly Buick).
  • Compact CUV (Chevy, possibly Buick).
  • Luxury-compact CUV (Cadillac).
  • Seven-passenger, large SUV (Chevy and/or Buick).
  • Seven-passenger, luxury SUV (Cadillac).

The new EV platform is designed to be profitable, Barra told the analysts.

“We have seen the costs of building, owning and operating an EV come down as battery technology has improved, and we’re driving cost efficiencies,” Barra said. “We believe we are leading the industry… and we’ve achieved this because we have a strategic investment in battery cell development. We also own the intellectual property not only for our battery chemistry, but also for our electric motors. And then we have a very important strategic relationship with LG as well as relationships with other battery cell manufacturers.”

She added, “we’re also improving our DC fast-charging capabilities.”

When an analyst asked whether GM expects to still be selling gasoline-powered cars by 2030, Barra responded, “We’re going to be driven by the customer… we do believe in an all-EV future but… we also are seeing internal combustion engines become more and more efficient… .”

Barra tied EV development with autonomous vehicle development, and credited GM’s acquisition of Cruise Automation for accelerating its self-driving vehicle technology. GM is building AV prototype Chevy Bolts on the Bolt’s assembly line for testing in the real world.

GM and Cruise Automation has “already deployed our third iteration of autonomous test vehicles,” Barra said. “And that’s in 14 months, so I think it really represents the speed at which we’re developing, deploying, and improving our autonomous vehicles. We believe this third generation will meet the redundancy and safety requirements necessary to operate without a driver, and we’re the only, to our knowledge, AV participants testing in complex environments like San Francisco, soon to be New York, in addition to the work we’re doing in Detroit and Arizona.”

Barra’s presentation to Barclay’s came one day before Tesla unveils its semi-truck prototype in Los Angeles. CEO Elon Musk, whose Tesla Model 3 has experienced serious production launch glitches, promises the electric semi “will blow your mind clear out of your skull.”

(Hat tip to Anton Wahlman.)

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