GM, Ford Declare That Internal Combustion’s Days Are Numbered
When General Motors, the maker of the Corvette and Camaro, and Ford, the company that built the Model T, say the days of internal combustion engines are coming to an end, a tide has changed in the automotive universe. Both happened this week.
On Monday, General Motors, the world’s third-largest automaker, “announced that the end of GM producing internal combustion engines is fast approaching,” the Washington Post reports. GM didn’t specify a date when it will stop producing gasoline and diesel-fueled engines, but signalled clearly that it is preparing for that day.
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The company, whose 380-kilometre-range all-electric Bolt won two coveted Car of the Year awards for 2017, held a media event at its “technical campus” outside Detroit to showcase concept vehicles for what it said would be two additional new electric models next year, and 18 more by 2023. Among them, according to reporters cited in the Post who attended the event: “a sporty crossover, a larger wagon or SUV, and a tall, boxy pod car that looked like a people-mover for cities.” The company also unveiled a concept zero-carbon heavy truck, with twin electric motors powered by hydrogen fuel cells.
A day later, Ford rushed an announcement ahead of a presentation to investors that it, too, was shifting gears, adding “13 electrified models over the next several years, with a five-year investment of US$4.5 billion,” according to the New York Times.
Together, the two historic American brands “sell more large pickup trucks and full-size sport utility vehicles than the rest of the global industry combined,” the Times notes.
And it’s not just the iconic nameplates tacked on the walls of countless gearheads’ workshops that are catching the electric tide. “Nobody doubts that the future will be electric,” Erich Joachimsthaler, who advises makers of luxury German cars on brand strategy, told Bloomberg. “The car companies dragged their feet with electric. Now they are being dragged into it by Tesla, and by regulations.”
“Almost 50 new pure electric-car models will come to market globally between now and 2022,” Bloomberg notes, “including vehicles from Daimler AG and Volkswagen AG. Even British inventor James Dyson is getting into the game.”
Analysts see two big factors fueling the rush to ditch internal combustion: regulatory pressure—led by China, California, and other critical markets where gas and diesel engines are likely to be prohibited for sale—and the marketing sizzle generated by Tesla Motors.
That said, the Times reminds enthusiasts who see the advent of the electric car as a turning point in campaigns for everything from a stable, liveable climate to clean air and uncongested cities of the scale of the conversion ahead.
“In the first eight months of 2017, even with federal tax incentives,” the paper notes, “Americans purchased only about 60,000 battery-powered electric vehicles, and about the same number of plug-in hybrid models. That amounts to 1% of the market.”