The CEO of General Motors, Rick Wagoner, says that, when it comes to the large-scale manufacture of electric vehicles, GM will ultimately beat out the dozens of electric-vehicle startups that have recently started racing to sell green cars. This is a high-volume, tough game to compete in and GM has a natural advantage by virtue of its experience and its “depth of technology,” Wagoner said at a meeting of the Commonwealth Club in downtown San Francisco.
“We plan to win. We welcome the competition, but I expect in ten years were going to be leading the parade.”
As if General Motors didn’t have enough to worry about with its $3.3 billion first-quarter loss and a two-month strike at a parts maker that has cost it $800 million. It’s also got a variety of young electric-vehicle startups that have announced plans to start selling vehicles before GM even gets its electric car the Volt to market.
GM plans to start producing the Volt by 2010, but Think recently said it will sell an electric vehicle in North America by 2009 for under $25,000 or “cheaper than the Prius.” Silicon Valley’s Tesla has already started selling its $100,000 sports car, the Roadster. And Aptera has already started producing its three-wheeled vehicle.
But Wagoner contends that the investment and scale involved in getting an electric car to mass production — and meeting both consumer expectations and regulatory requirements — will prove too challenging for many startups attempting to enter the EV arena. He pointed out that many of these startups are aiming to produce hundreds or, at best, a few thousands of cars — hardly the volumes Detroit is used to producing. He does make a good point.
And even though Wagoner says GM will come out on top, he still says the company is “wide open” to working with startups. A partnership with a young EV maker that has started to build momentum could actually help GM with some of its bigger competitors in the traditional car industry that are working to go green, too.