It appears that Tesla will remain the only serious electric car maker in the United States for quite some time. This is because despite the grand gestures and proclamations of an electric car-centric future from American automakers General Motors and Ford, the two companies’ actual production plans for North America are still centered on large, internal combustion-powered vehicles.
According to detailed production plans from GM and Ford that were viewed by Reuters, the two biggest American automakers will be making 5 million petrol-powered SUVs and pickup trucks in 2026, and only 320,000 electric vehicles. That’s just about 5% of Ford and GM’s combined vehicle production in North America, and less than Tesla’s output in 2019 from its one factory in Fremont, CA.
Putting it mildly, a production target of 320,000 electric vehicles in 2026 is a joke. Both companies, after all, have been insisting that they are all-in on an electric car push. Earlier this month, GM CEO Mary Barra announced a $20 billion project to bring a million EVs to market by the middle of the 2020s, though most of these vehicles will be sold in China. Ford is the same, with Executive Chairman Bill Ford stating that the company is “all-in” on an electric car push.
If GM and Ford’s production plans for North America are any indication, it appears that a lot of these optimistic EV-centric statements may be just that: statements, and nothing more. According to data from AutoForecast Solutions, GM and Ford’s North American production of SUV models will outpace traditional cars by over 8:1 in 2026. Among these SUVs, 93% will be petrol-powered.
Reuters noted that AutoForecast’s data is based on planning information provided to suppliers by the carmakers themselves. Interestingly enough, Ford and GM executives did not dispute the accuracy of the data when they were interviewed by the publication. On the contrary, Hau Thai-Tang, Ford’s chief product development and purchasing officer, argued that the strategy simply makes sense. “We’re trying to time this with the natural demand of consumers (so) we’re not forced to do artificial things, and we don’t violate the laws of economics,” he said.
Doug Parks, GM’s executive vice president of global product development, purchasing, and supply chain, was on the same page. “We want to meet customer demand with the best possible (carbon) footprint on the planet to help improve the CO2 (carbon dioxide) situation,” he said.
Considering these statements, it seems almost strange that the Big Two American automakers have been announcing their supposed dedication towards electrification. For AutoForecast vice president Sam Fiorani, this is most likely motivated by Ford and GM’s desire to placate Wall Street, which expects EVs to become mainstream in the near future.
“GM and Ford understand that buyers want more SUVs and trucks, but they’re also trying to play to Wall Street, which thinks the future is all about electric vehicles. The Detroit automakers would love to get a little of that Tesla magic and money,” he said.
With such a strategy in place for North America, Ford and GM’s upcoming electric cars risk becoming yet another generation of compliance cars. This is a shame, as some EVs announced by the two automakers have the potential to cause some serious disruptions in the auto market. Among these is the Ford Mustang Mach-E, a vehicle that matches the Tesla Model Y on paper, and the GMC Hummer EV, a monster of a pickup that can be a rival to Tesla’s Cybertruck.