GM Sets Ambitious Revenue Target, Challenges Tesla With $30,000 Electric SUV

Source: By Mike Colias, WallStreet Journal • Posted: Thursday, October 7, 2021

The Detroit car maker aims to more than double revenue by 2030, aided by new battery-electric models and auto-related services

General Motors said it plans to take the lead in electric-vehicle sales in the U.S. Photo: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News

General Motors Co. set one of its most ambitious financial targets in years on Wednesday, telling investors it aims to more than double revenue by 2030 with an influx of new battery-electric models and auto-related services.

The Detroit auto maker also took direct aim at Tesla Inc.,  saying it plans to take the lead in electric-vehicle sales in the U.S., without committing to a timetable. As part of the push, GM said it would release a new electric SUV priced at about $30,000, undercutting the cheapest version of Tesla’s Model 3 sedan.

GM executives outlined their longer-term goals ahead of a daylong event for investors and analysts at the company’s research center in suburban Detroit.

GM said it also aims to boost operating margins to 12%-14% by 2030, from 7.9% last year, by rolling out new models and services that can help bolster its bottom line. GM said it expects revenue to double to $280 billion, from a five-year average of about $140 billion.

GM shares fell less than 1%.

Declaring such long-range financial goals is unusual for the car company and underscores its effort to convince investors to value it more like a tech-oriented business than a manufacturer.

GM executives have been trying to make the case that it is evolving into a technology company and can boost revenue and profit by not only churning out cars but also offering services that generate recurring revenue.

Wall Street has shown enthusiasm for GM’s electrification plans over the past 18 months, often sending shares sharply higher on electric-vehicle news. GM shares snapped back from an all-time low amid pandemic uncertainty in March 2020 to rise 14% last year. They were up 30% this year through Tuesday’s close.

On Monday, activist investor Engine No. 1, which led a successful proxy fight with Exxon Mobil Corp. , publicly backed GM’s plan to transition to electric vehicles. The firm’s founder, Christopher James, said he isn’t pushing for change at GM but rather wanted to endorse its long-term strategy.

Still, its valuation of around $79 billion remains about one-tenth that of Tesla and there are numerous challenges ahead, including uncertainty about buyers making the switch to electrics. Plug-in cars remain more expensive relative to gas-powered vehicles, and auto executives have acknowledged that demand in coming years will hinge in part on government incentives.

Some consumers still worry about their ability to find enough places to charge. Analysts also have raised concerns about a potential shortage of battery capacity as major auto makers rush to go electric.

GM also says it can boost revenue by pushing into new business areas. It recently introduced car insurance that uses data about the owner’s driving habits to reward safer drivers with lower rates. A new electric-van service, Brightdrop, aims to help delivery companies like FedEx Corp. charge and manage their vehicle fleets.

“There are so many growth opportunities we have,” GM Chief Executive Mary Barra said during a media briefing. “Think about the vehicle not only as an electric vehicle, but as a software platform.”

Ms. Barra said GM expects eventually to generate an additional $20 billion to $25 billion in annual revenue from software and services, including $6 billion from the insurance product.

GM pointed to an upgrade of its hands-free driving system, to be called Ultra Cruise, which it says will allow for hands-free operation in 95% of driving scenarios. Planned for release in 2023, the technology will use a laser-based, three-dimensional radar system, called lidar, and be capable of remote enhancements over time, the company said. It didn’t disclose pricing.

On electric vehicles, GM has said it is spending $35 billion by mid-decade to introduce 30 plug-in models globally, in a bid to increase demand for a technology that now accounts for only about 2% of global vehicle sales.

GM said it would show an electric version of the Chevrolet Silverado, its top-selling U.S. nameplate, at CES in January. The truck is expected to compete directly with rival Ford Motor Co. ’s F-150 Lightning electric pickup, which Ford says has generated more than 150,000 nonbinding reservations.

GM President Mark Reuss said the auto maker soon would announce plans for a dedicated electric-truck plant. He didn’t say whether that would involve a fresh site or converting an existing factory.

The car company said it plans to sell the roughly $30,000 electric SUV for its Chevrolet brand but didn’t detail timing. Mr. Reuss said GM has plans for an even less-expensive electric vehicle, as well.

The auto maker’s earliest electrics are pricey and are expected to sell in relatively small volumes, including a $113,000 GMC Hummer pickup truck scheduled to go on sale late this year.

Analysts have said they would like GM to say more about its nascent business units so that investors can get a better sense of how the company can boost profitability beyond the relatively low margins of an auto manufacturer.

“Achieving a sustainably profitable Autos 2.0 business could further build GM’s credentials as a leader in the EV world and help prompt a rerating of the stock,” Deutsche Bank analyst Emmanuel Rosner said.

GM’s profits have soared despite disruption from the Covid-19 pandemic and ongoing computer chip shortage, as tight inventories prod customers to pay top dollar for GM’s priciest models. The company has said the four quarters stretching back to the third quarter of 2020 were the most profitable in its history, totaling $17.5 billion in pretax profit, excluding one-time items.

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