Curbside Newsstand: GM Plans To Stop Selling Gasoline Vehicles By 2035, Be Carbon Neutral by 2040

I meant to put something up on this story yesterday, but we decided to go snowshoeing; keeping our priorities straight. So it’s old news now, unless you get CC delivered in print under your rock. But then this is as big of news as it gets; GM has taken the really big step, and said it plans to be out of the gasoline vehicle business by 2035, and be completely carbon neutral by 2040.

It’s quite a turnaround for CEO Mary Barra, who just four years ago egged on the Trump administration to roll back the CO emission targets set by the Obama administration, going against a coalition of other carmakers, including Ford and Honda. But the wind is blowing in quite a different direction now, and in the meanwhile, GM committed to a $27 billion investment in zero-tailpipe emission vehicles. So this isn’t just blowing hot air.

GM’s stock price has already been benefiting from their increasingly EV-oriented future, with recent highs above $50 being their all-time high since being reconstituted as the New GM. They’ve got a ways to catch up with Tesla, whose stock has soared off to Mars and left the rest of the earth behind. With a market cap of $791 billion, Tesla is being valued at eleven times GM’s valuation. But GM’s stock move is a validation of their strategy, we can assume, although assuming anything too concretely in the current (un)reality of the stock market is an iffy bet.

GM’s move should put some pressures on other carmakers, most specifically Ford, which some years ago tried very hard to put on the green mantle. Ford did respond with this wonderfully hedged comment:

A spokesman for Ford Motor declined to directly comment on G.M.’s move but said his company was “committed to leading the electric vehicle revolution in the areas where we are strong.”

That’s a real PR gem.

Several of the European makers, notably VW, Daimler and BMW have all made more tentative commitments. Daimler has said it would have an electric or hybrid version of each of its models by 2022, and VW promised an electric version for each of its models by 2030. Stellantis? Not so much so. I’m guessing that Ram and Dodge are going to hang around with gas vehicles a bit longer to pick up the slow adopters, or something like that. But then things could change quickly; we do seem to be on the cusp of some serious changes.

The Trump administration rolled back the standard to about 40 miles per gallon, essentially eliminating the need for companies to invest in EVs and other electrification.  The Biden administration is expected to announce by April that it will introduce rules requiring cars to reach an average of about 51 miles per gallon by 2026. Additional provisions aimed at boosting the production and sales of electric vehicles are expected, along with a pledge to replace the federal government’s fleet of some 650k vehicles with EVs.

It’s all quite the turnaround from the bad old GM, purveyor of the gas-swilling Hummers and killer of their first EV. We’ve seen Volkswagen decide that Tesla was the model to strive for, with lots of praise by CEO Herbert Diess for “my friend Elon Musk”, and saying that they hope to catch up and beat Tesla. And GM was close behind, although Mary Barra has had few if any words for Musk. But clearly they’ve both seen the light.

That leaves Toyota, Renault-Nissan, Ford and Stellantis to still decide about how fast they want to jump in. So if you’re torrid about not being able to buy a gas engine GM vehicle in the future, there might still be a few other options. But predicting the future is a fool’s errand. Maybe you’ll want to stock up on a lifetime’s worth of ICE cars and store them in a sealed garage, like the guy with his brand new 1979 Lincolns. Maybe there will be a run on the last gas-engine Cadillacs, like there was on the last Eldorado convertibles in 1976.