June 15, 2020 / 10:23 PM / a month ago

GM CEO optimistic on U.S. demand, China, EV profitability

DETROIT (Reuters) - General Motors Co’s (GM.N) top executive struck an optimistic note on Monday about U.S. new vehicle demand despite the coronavirus pandemic, and the ability to sell electric vehicles at a profit, especially in China.

FILE PHOTO: General Motors Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra announces a major investment focused on the development of GM future technologies at the GM Orion Assembly Plant in Lake Orion, Michigan, U.S. March 22, 2019. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

“We’re cautiously optimistic” about U.S. new vehicle demand, Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra said at a virtual press event hosted by the Automotive Press Association. “We’re hopeful that we’ll have a recovery because that’s good for everybody.”

After two months of lost production as automakers shuttered plants to halt the spread of COVID-19, U.S. new vehicle dealers are running low on inventory, especially in the high-margin pickup truck segment that is dominated by GM, Ford Motor Co (F.N) and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (FCHA.MI) (FCAU.N).

Barra said she expects GM will be “running full out” at plants that make those popular vehicles “in the near term.”

Consultancy AlixPartners has predicted that major automakers face a “profit desert” as they invest heavily in developing electric vehicles despite consumers’ ongoing preference for gas-guzzling cars, especially in the U.S. market.

When asked about that prediction, Barra said, “We are very excited with the portfolio of EVs we have coming.”

“We are going to continue on that path,” she said. “We have a strong future ahead and I don’t see that desert.”

Industry data last week showed that China’s auto sales in May rose 14.5% from the same month a year earlier, the second consecutive monthly increase as the world’s biggest vehicle market recovers from lows hit during coronavirus lockdowns.

Barra said that GM’s lineup of vehicles, including its upcoming EV models, position the automaker for growth in China.

“I think we’re going to be in a sweet spot where there is a growth opportunity in that market,” she said. “We’re looking for profit and volume growth in China.”

Reporting By Nick Carey; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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