In the comments section of my recent CleanTechnica article, GM’s Upcoming Electric Trucks & SUVs “Will Be Profitable From Day One” — CleanTechnica Report, a reader named John stated:
Loren, I would like to caution you about the optimism that you display in this article. It is, at very best, grossly premature.
I quickly banged out a response and then realized I had basically drafted a 525 word blog post. So the following is a slightly edited version of my reply to the reader on CleanTechnica:
John, I went into the GM meetings with a cautious eye. I got a bit burned by another automaker a few months ago … so I wore my skeptical hat.
I’ve chatted with executives from companies like Ford and Toyota in recent years and found that most didn’t truly believe in EVs – even those who are now responsible for some aspect of EV development. I found many of them were clueless and simply didn’t “get” EVs.
Change at the automakers is all about the leadership, passion and commitment of its people. Of the 5 GM executives I got to spend time with I found every one of them to be insanely smart and experienced in EVs/batteries/charging – and were not just ICE power train managers who moved over to the “electrification” project.
Each of them ooozed with passion for EVs and all of them had Mary Barra’s 0-0-0 mission “tattooed on their chests” (figuratively speaking). I felt a true commitment and belief in EVs unlike anything I have seen in my limited conversations with executives at some of the other legacy automakers.
Now clearly the whole intent of me and the other writers being flown in was for us to come away believing exactly what I wrote above. And so the agenda was clearly well thought out, the people we met with hand picked.
But here was the thing. I started my career in public relations and so have been on the other side of the table. The PR team was completely hands off and the executives often said things that made the PR people cringe a bit as it was clear the comments probably went beyond where they should have gone. The executives were not scripted and the PR team let them have free rein.
My point is when you sit across the table for 2+ hours over dinner and wine with people – you tend to find out a lot. The two EV charging executives were EXTREMELY candid and also were deeply experienced having worked with utilities, dealers and multiple aspects of the industry. They shared the details of their plans that were baked, they shared the warts, the unknown – but they also had a focused strategy that they are designing to solve a very specific charging challenge and that they believe they can execute against.
Could all of this just been well-scripted blowing of smoke. Possibly, but I doubt it. These guys (they were all guys) spoke with too much passion and conviction.
The hard part now – as many have pointed out is execution. But I think the promise of creating jobs for 2,200 workers in the Detroit area can not be overlooked. Jobs in Detroit are not taken lightly and everyone at the press conference from the Governor down to the mayor of Hamtramck are going to do what they can to hold GM accountable for delivering those 2,200 EV factory jobs.
We will have to reconvene in about 3 years to measure GM’s progress and see if the company is indeed committed to EVs. I hope what I saw with my eyes was not a mirage … but only time will tell.