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GM hopes its electric Hummer ‘supertruck’ can win over traditional truck buyers

The ultraluxury pickup starts at $112,595, has 1,000 horsepower and can go zero to 60 in three seconds. And it has a ‘crab walk mode.’

This week, GM unveiled its entrant in the high-stakes race to bring an electric pickup to market: the 2022 GMC Hummer EV. The “world’s first supertruck” revives the Hummer brand — a beloved icon to some, a symbol of excess to others — for the first time since it was phased out in 2010. It also marks the first major offering in GM’s $20 billion pivot to electric vehicles under chief executive Mary Barra’s “triple zero vision” of zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion.

The Hummer EV, which has a 350-mile range and can be put in “crab walk mode,” starts at $112,595. Edition 1 is slated for delivery in fall 2021.

Electric pickups are seen as a winning proposition in the American electric-vehicle industry — Tesla, Ford and Amazon-backed Rivian all have versions in the works — and it’s easy to see why: In 2019, the nation’s three best-selling vehicles were trucks, according to auto analyst Edmunds, with the Ford F-series holding the No. 1 spot, as it has for 40 years.
Though sales of electric vehicles are relatively small, wider access to charging stations is making them more palatable to consumers. And with California, the nation’s largest auto market, pledging to ban sales of new gas-powered cars by 2035, automakers have an incentive to come up with alternatives.

Still, as Autotrader executive analyst Michelle Krebs notes, no one knows how big the electric pickup market is because it doesn’t exist. “Is it going to be a whole new customer base that have not bought trucks before, or will we see traditional buyers switch over to electric? And with all these players competing, will they be able to make enough money?”

Truck owners have the highest level of loyalty of any segment of the auto industry, Krebs said. Leasing is uncommon — customers buy and keep pickups for a long time, data show. With the Hummer EV, Krebs said GM is harnessing the appeal of the original Hummer, which connotes “ruggedness and adventure, an off-road kind of image.”

“There was no vehicle that was more an enemy of environmentalists than the original Hummer,” Krebs said. “It’s pretty clear they’re making the Hummer EV into a very rugged, off-road adventure vehicle, but one that’s powered by electricity. It’s an interesting mix of things it did before but without emitting pollution.”

GM is positioning the Hummer, which has 1,000 horsepower and can go zero to 60 in three seconds, as a direct challenge to Tesla’s Cybertruck. The “Blade Runner”-inspired pickup is the front-runner in the EV space — “the official truck of Mars” according to Tesla CEO Elon Musk — and is slated for delivery in early 2021. Rivian’s less ostentatious take on the electric pickup, the R1T, also arrives early next year.

But price sets the vehicles apart. Sam Korus, an analyst with Ark Invest, noted on Twitter that GM’s truck costs $30,000 more than the Cybertruck but has two-thirds the driving range. Its six-figure price exceeds the typical home value in at least 80 counties and West Virginia, Zillow data shows.

GM said first-year preorders for the Hummer EV were gone in an hour. Fred Lambert, the editor in chief of Electrek, said it was unclear whether this was a reflection of a low volume offered or high consumer appetite. He estimated that the automaker was rolling out no more than 5,000 units in the first run. By comparison, reservations for Tesla’s Cybertruck surpassed 650,000 as of July, according to Wedbush Securities.

“There are a lot of people that are into that, and they are willing to pay over $100,000 for the type of specs GM is promising here,” Lambert wrote of the Hummer EV. “With that said, I have a suspicion that GM didn’t open that many slots for reservations on the Edition 1 and might be planning fairly low volume in 2021-2022.”

Dan Ives, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, expects the truck to be one of GM’s “foundational models,” predicting in July that it “could see relatively strong demand out of the gates.”

GM announced Tuesday that it would invest more than $2.2 billion in U.S. manufacturing as it ramps up production of electric vehicles, including the first battery-powered Cadillac. The legacy automaker has pledged to deliver 20 new models of electric cars by 2023.

“We believe electric trucks will be a true mark of progress toward a world with zero emissions,” General Motors president Mark Reuss said in a message after the vehicle’s debut in a commercial during the World Series on Tuesday.

These much-hyped arrivals come at a time of heightened uncertainty in the auto industry, as the coronavirus pandemic is likely to loom over the U.S. economy for years to come. After the shutdown shock in March, Deloitte warned of potential long-term aftershocks on the auto industry: waning demand and persistent supply and production disruption that could force automakers to accelerate decisions to exit weaker markets, ultimately lowering output.

Then again, truck and SUV demand have powered much of the recovery in the auto sector. Ford F-series sales rose 17.2 percent in September, the line’s best third-quarter performance since 2005. Earlier this month, GM announced a 10 percent drop in third-quarter sales — a stark improvement from the 34 percent slide recorded in the second quarter, when it was forced to idle factories during pandemic-inspired shutdowns. GM vice president Kurt McNeil reported that, industry-wide, dealers are selling “a high mix of large pickups.” The company says production is almost at pre-pandemic levels.

The outcome of the U.S. presidential election could affect the auto industry’s push toward EVs. President Trump claimed support for electric cars in the recent presidential debate, taking credit for an Obama-era EV tax credit. But his administration also has tried to roll back environmental regulations. Former vice president Joe Biden has pledged to push for electric vehicle legislation and to create hundreds of thousands of EV-related jobs.

“In the event of a Joe Biden victory in November, we think auto manufacturers and suppliers focused on green and emission-free technologies, such as electric vehicles (EVs), would likely benefit,” Garrett Nelson, senior equity analyst at CFRA Research, wrote in September.

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