GM CEO Says Incentives May Help America Transition to EVs


General Motors CEO Mary Barra has chimed in on the weeklong open discussion about whether or not it’s a good idea for America to embrace the Biden administration’s EV tax credit plan, which just so happens to be deeply intertwined with the Build Back Better Act’s cavalcade of federal initiatives.

As we’ve already covered the topic more than once, we’ll avoid the recap and simply post the relevant links where Tesla CEO Elon Musk recommended pitching the entire bill into the trash and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg went to bat for the White House by suggesting the updated tax scheme was a necessity for electrification to thrive. Barra opted to go with the latter take, stating that it could help accelerate EV adoption.

Though it’s hardly a surprise as GM is the automaker that has the most to gain from the revised EV tax incentive proposal. The company is the only manufacturer (other than Tesla) to have sold enough cars to exhaust the current federal quotas, making it ineligible to receive any more government-backed discounts on its electrified products. During the Obama administration, it was broadly assumed that the incentives would be used to help get the ball rolling on new-energy vehicles while they were so much more expensive than internal combustion cars.

However the Build Back Better Act (H. R. 5376) seeks to nullify those limitations by ending the vehicle quotas and permitting government aid to go on almost indefinitely. As things currently stand, Congress is considering phasing out the Biden tax credit scheme in 2032 or nixing payouts once U.S. electric vehicle sales exceed 50 percent annually (they’re currently under 2 percent). While some have framed this as wiping the slate clean, many other manufacturers (e.g. Toyota) have suggested this leaves the two automakers who already reached their quotas a decided advantage. But Tesla doesn’t support the updated tax incentive plan either, with Elon Musk insisting that EVs eventually need to stand on their own.

There are different versions of H. R. 5376 in the House and Senate and both carve out an extra $2,500-4,500 financial credit for vehicles manufactured by unionized labor. This sets up GM and Ford to receive up to $12,500 per vehicle by way of purchasing subsidies. Other companies (Tesla included) receive substantially less. But the House variant of Build Back Better also has provisions that could restrict exceptionally wealthy households or particularly expensive vehicles from taking advantage of the plan.

This is the one thing that could be a thorn in General Motors’ side were Build Back Better to pass. The gargantuan all-electric GMC Hummer is unlikely to retail below $80,000 in its most basic format. There are also fears that the upcoming electric pickups being plotted by Ford and GM may exceed the pricing cap in certain configurations. However Congress set financial bar highest for pickups at a pretty juicy $74,000 — almost like they were intentionally trying to assist legacy manufacturers.

Though Barra’s focus on Thursday was lower than that. Despite her company gearing up to sell extra large EVs with lofty price tags, she told the Automotive Press Association that the new EV tax incentives could be a blessing for those in the market for a $30,000 car (like the Chevy Bolt).

“Do those individuals need that support to make the transition? I think it’s reasonable if you’re trying to accelerate [EV adoption],” she said.

“That’s their only vehicle, and they depend on it. If they don’t get to work, it impacts their livelihood … Reaching that customer is where you’re really going to get scale, and I’m very proud that at General Motors, we do that with the Chevrolet brand, across the board, from trucks to the crossovers to smaller vehicles.”

As we haven’t seen GM’s upcoming value EVs, we’ll have to wait until the company showcases its launch plan at next month’s CES to see where they stand. Currently, the manufacture is supposed to release affordable compact and midsized electric crossovers as the first wave of 30 EV assault that’s supposed to conclude in 2025. But those only come after it’s launched the big-n-pricy Silverado and Hummer battery powered vehicles.

[Image: General Motors]

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