GM Tesla trolls change approach with new “supercar”

GMC Hummer EV Version 1

Michael Wayland / CNBC

PHOENIX – The new electric GMC Hummer pickup is different for General Motors and not just because it’s not gasoline like its ancestors. It marks a major change for the historically conservative automaker in Detroit, both in form and functionality, according to those who worked on it.

The “highly profitable” vehicle is the flagship of GM’s new Ultium EV technology and is the Detroit’s new benchmark in terms of development time. There are also other notable features inside the car that insiders say are evidence that GM has changed as a company to compete better with Tesla and the new EV start-up company.

Such features include a subtle dig on Tesla’s Cybertruck, a conspicuously set button that does nothing right now – and “Watts to Freedom,” or WTF, a mode that runs the large vehicle 0-60 mph in about three seconds. It’s comparable to the Chevy Corvette and slightly slower than some Tesla performance models that can reach speeds in less than three seconds.

“Hopefully there are a lot of surprises with this vehicle because it’s all intentional,” said Aaron Pfau, Hummer’s chief development engineer, at a news conference. “It’s to change your notion of not only what an electric car can do, but what GM as a whole can do.

Pfau and other members of the Hummer EV team succeeded through the company’s notoriously narrow lawyers and broader bureaucracy to enable quick decisions and unique features for the vehicle that GM has never done before. They did it in a record 26 months. That’s about half the time in a typical car.

The overall project, called “Moon Shot” in the back of NASA’s first lunar landing, Apollo 11, was to quickly create a “fun” vehicle that would draw attention to the company and its new electric cars, which are expected to grow to 30 models worldwide. in 2025.

“The whole purpose of this vehicle was to excite people and think about electric cars that would not necessarily be exciting and think about electric cars,” said Pfau. “We’re pulling everything, all the bells and whistles, into this one vehicle. It’s a bit of a halo, right? It’s not a lot of noise.”

WTF

The Hummer team was largely free to create the vehicle around the idea of ​​building an “supercar” in the open, high-performance and off-road vehicle. Essentially, modernize the Hummer brand to create a bold EV to showcase the best the company has to offer.

“We supported the design team and the chief engineering team and we said, ‘Hey, let’s go,'” Duncan Aldred, GMC’s International Director, said in an interview. “I think people really enjoyed it and I think it’s surrounding this vehicle.

To use “WTF”, an acronym commonly associated with the vulgar notion of disbelief, senior members of the Hummer team, with the support of GM executives to do things differently, agreed after a battle with the carmaker’s lawyers.

“This is such a captivating experience and we want to break the norm,” said Pfau. “We do not want you to continue to have this belief that we are this old, clogged, old company. We in this program were truly like a start-up company, within GM, and that paved the way for us.”

Others such as exterior designer Brian Malczewski and performance engineer Drew Mitchell shared similar feelings about the program. Aldred thanked GM President Barra and Mark Reuss for giving the team such freedom to operate, within common sense.

“That does not mean we want to do something irresponsible in any way,” Aldred said. “But clearly we’re in an environment where we have to offer things that customers want and that will interest them. Tesla, to be fair to them, they have done a great job in all that.”

Some Tesla features have been controversial. In particular, to allow drivers to play video games while driving, which has been revoked, and concerns that its driver assistance systems are being offered to consumers while they are still being tested or not properly monitoring the driver’s consciousness.

Aldred said GM has a history of using such features safely and cites third-party praise for its Hummer Super Cruise highway assistance system.

The Hummer also has a four-wheel steering wheel that allows it to make very sharp turns and offers a “crab mode” that allows the vehicle to move diagonally. The current model being produced offers 1,000 horsepower, 1,200 feet of motor traction and 11,500 feet of bicycle traction.

However, like the original GM Hummer cars from 1990 and 2000, such capabilities cost money. Although it does not infect gas, it goes through a lot of energy and weighs over 9,000 pounds. This weight is about 4,000 pounds more than the heaviest Chevrolet Silverado 1500 pickup truck and more than twice the average new car, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Car and Driver says that the Hummer EV pickup has a rating of 47 MPGe, a range of electric cars equivalent to miles per liter. It is about 33% smaller than the competition, including the smaller Rivian R1T pickup truck and the upcoming F-150 Lightning from Ford Motor. GM has refused to confirm MPGe.

The Hummer Edition 1, now manufactured in a Detroit plant, has an electric range of 329 miles and is at the top of the Rivian and Ford electric pickup trucks. All car manufacturers, as well as Tesla, have said that the long-range options for their pickup trucks will be available later.

Easter eggs

Other hidden or unexpected features in the vehicle, also known as “Easter eggs”, range from moon-inspired design elements to custom-designed digital extras. Optional images include dynamite and skulls, as well as a Hummer EV that drives a Tesla Cybertruck.

“We had so much fun doing this that we usually don’t get to do on your regular car,” said Malczewski.

Hummer EV has custom graphics for digital extras. The optional images range from dynamite and skulls to the one vehicle that drives the Tesla Cybertruck.

Michael Wayland / CNBC

There is also a prominent button on the center button that does nothing at the moment. When pressed, it says, “Your mode. Your mission. EpicIdeas@GMC.com.” GM wants owners to submit their own concept ideas for the button, which will then be added via an external OTA, or air upgrade.

The button, small “H” surrounded by three triangular markings, could be used for more off-road or off-road modes or other properties for the vehicles, said Pfau.

“We’re asking for everyone’s reaction now to say, ‘Hi, what do you want?’ he said. “We’ve looked at all sorts of different features we can do with controls.”

Such hidden features and remote upgrades are relatively new to traditional carmakers such as GM but have been a staple of Tesla, a leader in electric vehicles. Barra has said that GM will top Tesla in sales of electric cars in the United States by 2025.

There is a prominent center button that when pressed says: “Your mode. Your task. EpicIdeas@GMC.com.” GM wants owners to submit their own concept ideas for the button, which will then be added via a remote update.

Michael Wayland / CNBC

It looks to be profitable

Since the Hummer EV pickup truck premiered in October 2020, GM has received more than 65,000 orders for the truck as well as for the upcoming SUV version of the car.

Eighty percent of order holders have ordered the most expensive models of the car, according to Aldred.

“We had a goal, we had a business issue, we’re hitting it,” he said, refusing to compare profitability with traditional combustion models. “We were very, very profitable on these vehicles, even with, say, 40 or 50% of the top of the line.”

GM has promised investors that the next generation of cars, starting with the Hummer, will be profitable. Limited Edition 1 of the Hummer starting at $ 110,295. Other, cheaper versions – ranging from a starting price of $ 80,000 to $ 100,000 – will follow.

Production is set to begin at the former Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant, less than two years after GM announced a $ 2.2 billion investment to fully renovate the facility to build a variety of electric trucks and SUVs.

Photo by Jeffrey Sauger for General Motors

Although the Hummer EV pickup is for sale, new orders will probably not be fulfilled until 2024 due to the number of existing bookings, Aldred said. The SUV, which GM introduced last year after the pickup truck, is not expected until 2023.

“What we are looking at now is how can we build up the maximum amount and how can we deliver, fulfill this reservation as soon as possible? said Aldred. “We are doing all the research on that and we are confident that we can go much faster than we initially thought, but that still means that a reservation now probably means delivering ’24.

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