Despite few, if any details, General Motors has announced a 2021 electric pickup truck to put up against rival e-Truck makers Tesla and Rivian. Scheduled to arrive in the fall of 2021, Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra said at an investor conference, “General Motors understands truck buyers and… people who are new coming into the truck market. It will be a very capable truck, I’m pretty excited about it.”
According to Reuters, the new truck and any future all-electric SUV or pickup models will be produced out of the Detroit-Hamtramck (DHAM) plant. DHAM was recently spared closure in the negotiations with the United Auto Workers that caused a work stoppage for GM. Currently, the plant builds the Chevrolet Volt and the Cadillac CTS.
The timing of the announcement perfectly coincides with the stunning debut of Tesla’s pickup which has met with some sharp criticism for its design that CEO Elon Musk called, “closer to an armored personnel carrier from the future.” To say the new body style is polarizing would be an understatement.
Pickup trucks are the most profitable segment of the automotive market as evidenced by the cancellation of many traditional car models by Ford, GM, and Fiat-Chrysler. Light-truck sales as a whole in the U.S. grew 7.7% in 2018, according to the Automotive News Data Center, to 11.98 million units — a level that car sales have never reached. That is 69% of the market in the U.S.
It remains to be seen whether manufacturers will simply fit battery packs and motors to existing production bodies or whether this new evolution of the pickup will be a new-from-the-ground-up design by GM. Recently, Ford also announced plans for an electric truck, and you can imagine that with production dates set, Ford won’t let Tesla, Rivian, or its old nemesis GM get too far ahead in the game.
Consumers have voiced concerns over the limitations of electric trucks echoing many of the same concerns about cars, range between charging being the chief among them. Additionally, in a truck, with the weight of a battery needed to move it down the road, will payload and towing capacity suffer? With necessity being the mother of invention, a healthy war among the manufacturers will yield a better product for us all, just as it has since the Model T trundled off the assembly line.
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