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GM to re-enter Europe as EV brand

FRESH OPPORTUNITIES: GM’s Ultium battery pack will power a wide variety of models, including future light-duty vehicles for European markets.

ANZ plans unclear as Barra sees new opportunity for GM as ‘all-EV player’ in Europe

24 May 2022

GENERAL Motors CEO Mary Barra has told Automotive News Europe that the company can re-enter the European market as an electric vehicle focused company and that she has no seller’s remorse about divesting Opel and Vauxhall in 2017 to what was then the PSA Group.


It remains unclear whether this move presages a larger-scale return to Australasia for GM, which is represented locally by General Motors Special Vehicles (GMSV) with a small range of niche products.


A GMSV spokesperson told GoAuto the organisation is “focused on Silverado as well as the first-ever, factory-manufactured right-hand-drive Corvette”.


“There aren’t any product-related announcements to make at this time."


As GoAuto has reported, former GM brand Opel will return to New Zealand this year with a focus on electrification.


Speaking at the Milken Institute’s global conference in Los Angeles this month, Ms Barra said she is looking forward to seeing the Detroit-based firm make a return to the EU but did not indicate when the world’s second-largest car manufacturer will make its move.


“About five years ago we sold our Opel business to what is now Stellantis, and we have no seller’s remorse from an internal-combustion business,” she said.


“But we can re-enter Europe as an all-EV player, and I’m looking forward to that.”


Ms Barra and Carlos Tavares, the CEO of PSA at the time of the sale and now head of Stellantis, engineered the $US2.2 billion ($A3.13b) sale of GM’s European business following years of losses, Automotive News Europe reports.


The publication says Opel has returned to profitability under Stellantis via the integration of its development, production and back-office operations with those of group members Fiat Chrysler and PSA.


General Motors did not fully exit Europe following the sale of Opel, retaining its Zurich headquarters and selling a number of Cadillac luxury models (mostly the XT4 SUV), as well as the Chevrolet Camaro and Corvette sportscars.


According to JATO Dynamics, around 500 examples of each were sold across 2021.


But GM has signalled that it intends to play a larger role in Europe once more.


In November, it said it was appointing Mahmoud Samara, a Zurich-based Cadillac sales executive who reports directly to GM International president Shilpan Amin, as president and general manager of GM Europe.


“His mission is to transform our current operations into a non-traditional mobility start-up in the region. We will make very deliberate decisions about where and how we compete in Europe,” a European spokesperson for GM told Automotive News Europe.


The spokesperson added that GM would communicate further details about its revamped operations in Europe shortly, saying new technologies would provide the company with opportunities for further growth.


“Together with his team at our headquarters in Zurich, he (Mr Samara) is preparing this launch, leveraging the new initiatives and technologies that GM is providing for global growth opportunities.”


Automotive News Europe says Mr Samara has led much of Cadillac’s transition to electric vehicles.


Mr Samara said Europe’s growing electric vehicle market presents a significant opportunity for General Motors as it continues to roll-out its EV and autonomous vehicle portfolio, noting that GM is investing $US35 billion ($A49.72b) in electric vehicles and battery technology globally.


“Over the coming months, our team will develop our plans to bring our best products and services to customers in Europe,” said Mr Samara in a statement last year.


“Our business will span the major markets in Europe. We have big aspirations in Europe, as it is the second largest and fastest growing EV market (in the world).”


As reported by GoAuto last year, GM’s primary goal from a future product perspective is offering electric vehicles (EVs) “across a range of price points” with an extra $US7 billion ($A9.15b) to be invested in the development of electric and autonomous vehicles in the next five years.


Most of the now $US27b ($A35.28b) investment will go into the progression and development of the brand’s Ultium battery technology and the upgrading of key manufacturing facilities including Factory Zero in Michigan and Spring Hill Manufacturing in Tennessee to use internationally sourced materials.


GM has made no secrets of its plans to electrify in recent months, claiming it will hit virtually every price point of every major segment to “offer an EV for every customer”.


The company says it intends to be carbon neutral by 2040 and will eliminate tailpipe emissions from new light-duty vehicles by 2035.

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