GM Finally Gets Its Tesla Moment

After years of hesitation, the legendary car manufacturer has finally tried to ignite its own electric vehicle frenzy

When it comes to electric vehicles, GM has spent a decade looking ambivalent. In 2010, the carmaker released the Volt, the world’s first major plug-in hybrid electric car. Then, in 2016, it debuted the Bolt, the first 200-mile, fully electric vehicle. Critics fawned over both cars, but GM seemed to shun the fanfare, designing the vehicles with what appeared to be almost deliberate frumpiness, and failing to promote either. Both have been sales failures, and last year GM stopped selling the Volt altogether.

What was with GM’s hesitation? Didn’t it want buzz? Didn’t it want to sell a lot of cars?

The doubts are finally over. In an ultra-splashy reveal this week, GM began to take orders for a fully loaded, all-electric Hummer. Within 10 minutes, its first-year production of the $112,000 vehicle maxed out reservations (each requiring a $100 deposit).

Company spokeswoman Michelle Malcho told me GM is not disclosing how many vehicles that actually means — but the video reveal excited lots of people. The reimagined Hummer boasts 350 miles of range on one charge, and, once you’ve driven down the battery, the capability for 100 miles of recharge in just 10 minutes. For drivers with a James Bond sensibility, the Hummer can raise itself up six inches and drive diagonally.

“If that’s not exciting for America, what is? That thing is a monster,” Pasquale Romano, CEO of ChargePoint, which operates a network of EV charging stations, told me. He said the vehicle was bound to get more people talking about EVs. “It’s creating aspirations.”

One is reminded of the early days of Tesla. In 2008, Elon Musk’s company released the Roadster, which also went for about $110,000. It ignited the first modern frenzy around electric vehicles, though largely within the Silicon Valley community. The electric Hummer looks like that, only for the much larger cowboy crowd.

In the next few years, we’ll see the release of the electric Cybertruck from Tesla, the electric Ford F-150, and the electric Rivian pickup. But with the Hummer, GM may have improbably taken the lead on transforming the massive American love affair with the combustion pickup to an EV love affair. The secret, as Tesla has shown, is to make electrics fun and cool — not castor oil on wheels. With its Hummer, the newly unconflicted GM shows that it finally gets that.

Editor at Large, Medium, covering the turbulence all around us, electric vehicles, batteries, social trends. Writing The Mobilist. Ex-Axios, Quartz, WSJ, NYT.

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