By Chloe Aiello
The future is all-electric ー at least for General Motors, the carmarker's Chairwoman and CEO Mary Barra said on Cheddar Friday.
"At General Motors, we believe in an all-electric future," Barra told Betty Liu, executive vice chairman for the New York Stock Exchange, through a special partnership between Cheddar and NYSE. "We believe that's the path forward, and that's why we are dedicating resources to build on the Chevrolet Volt first and second generations, now the Chevrolet Bolt EV."
General Motors ($GM) is taking serious strides into that electric future with Cadillac leading the charge. The Detroit-based automaker announced on Friday that Cadillac would be the lead electric vehicle brand, built on GM's new battery electric vehicle infrastructure.
Barra said it's an obvious choice, since Cadillac needed a face-lift, anyway. And what GM needed was a luxury electric vehicle ー one that could compete with luxury automakers, like Tesla ($TSLA), Mercedes-Benz, and BMW.
"We are working hard to really regain the status that Cadillac once had. I mean, Cadillac is an iconic brand, it's a luxury brand. People still use 'it's the Cadillac of something,'" she said. "And one of the ways we'll do that is through technology and innovation on that vehicle. So what better vehicle to launch this all-new battery electric vehicle than Cadillac?"
For today's automakers, it's impossible to look forward without considering autonomy. Barra called self-driving technology "probably the biggest technical challenge of our time," but one that has potential to unlock major rewards.
"To create an autonomous vehicles where it doesn't need a driver, you have to really have thought through and have a system that is going to learn and know exactly where it's at, know exactly what's happening around it, and, therefore, know the safe path to go forward," Barra said. "I think what most people don't realize is just how hard that is, but solving that has tremendous benefit."
Despite the challenges inherent in autonomy, Barra said she felt GM was well-equipped to produce safer, cheaper autonomous vehicles.
"We have scale and the ability to manufacture hundreds and millions of vehicles ー we can pull that all together and change the way people move," she said.
And much like the future of GM, Barra said, the future of autonomy is electric.
GM said in November, it will cease production of the plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt in early 2019, as part of a broader move to shutter five plants in North America and cut as many as 14,000 jobs. The announcement immediately drew bipartisan criticism from lawmakers.