Mary Barra Talks Future

General Motors CEO Mary Barra outlined the company’s vision of the future at the Barclays Global Automotive Conference in New York on Wednesday. While the majority of her speech adhered to GM’s current mantra of “zero crashes, zero emissions, and zero congestion,” we also got a taste of what that thinking might yield on a shorter timeline.

In early October, GM expressed its intention to launch 20 new electric vehicles by 2023. However, we didn’t get any specific details on the matter. That changed this week. Barra claims the manufacturer will introduce three new electric models by 2020, with two of them being crossovers. The trio will share share basic components with the Chevrolet Bolt.

These models will be followed by a new electric vehicle platform in 2021, with cheaper and more efficient battery cells. The EV architecture is intended to serve as a base for at least nine models — ranging from a massive seven-seat luxury SUV to a very compact crossover.

GM Chevrolet Bolt crossover, Image: GM

However, GM also speaks of “adjacent businesses.”

The automaker is sticking with plans to evolve its ride-sharing platform, Maven, and intends to make vehicle connectivity commonplace in all of its future models. Both projects provide varied revenue sources intended to make investors drool with anticipation. While Maven is supposed to reach a few major metropolitan areas over the next few years, car connectivity is likely to become ubiquitous sooner than later.

GM sees data acquisition as a huge financial opportunity. By launching 13 million connected cars over the several years, the company thinks it can accrue wealth through an in-car digital marketplace that sells apps and services. Afterward, it can collect driver data (purchasing choices, driving habits, etc.), sell it off to whoever wants it (including insurance companies), and potentially issue in-car advertisements — something it is already pursuing with help from IBM.

While I absolutely hate this idea, it makes smart business sense and could potentially make the manufacturer truckloads of money. It’s also one of the better ways to help field autonomous vehicles, which is another avenue GM is frantically looking to go down and has had some previous success with. Some experts have suggested self-driving cars won’t be totally effective until all cars possess a moderate level of interconnectedness, and General Motors seems to be in agreement.

As the context of the meeting was to entice investors, we have to take everything stretching beyond the next five years with a grain of salt. However, even though Barra didn’t say so explicitly, GM does appear to be shifting its focus toward mobility — streamlining its core business to advance future technologies.

[Source: Reuters]

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