General Motors’ first-quarter earnings report and accompanying analyst call highlighted the company’s lofty ambitions for electric and autonomous vehicles, and the money it’s willing to back.
The initial financial conclusion in the first quarter report was an earnings message despite supply constraints. However, the call offered other interesting comments, as well as a substantial change to his compensation-based plan and a spending forecast for Cruise, all of which are focused on ensuring GM’s success in electric and autonomous vehicles.
First the financial parts. GM reported that net income fell to $2.9 billion in the first quarter from $3.02 billion in the same period a year ago. Revenue rose 11% to $35.9 billion but fell short of analyst expectations.
Like automakers around the world, GM faces pressures that include supply chain disruptions, semiconductor shortages and rising inflation. Those headwinds caused GM’s vehicle sales to fall 20% in the first quarter compared to the same period last year. And yet, the automaker managed to close the profit gap.
“We had a very strong first quarter, including revenue growth of more than 10% year over year, driven by strong demand for our products, especially our full-size trucks and SUVs,” said CFO Paul Jacobson. in a call with analysts on Tuesday.
Some other elements stood out. Here are the top three.
low cost electric vehicles
GM has electric pickup trucks and a new slate of affordable battery electric models to help you sell 1 million electric vehicles in North America by 2025.
Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra said the automaker’s biggest growth opportunity in North America is in electric trucks, with the battery-electric version of the Chevrolet Silverado scheduled to start production early next year. Yet that’s an increasingly competitive segment teeming with rivals from newcomer Rivian and Ford, which announced its own new electric truck hours before GM’s earnings call.
Ford’s all-electric F-150 Lightning went into production on Monday. Ford CEO Jim Farley announced Tuesday at a livestreamed event to celebrate the launch of the Lightning that the automaker plans to launch a second electric truck soon.
GM said it also plans to focus on lower-priced electric models.
“Another area where we are building a competitive advantage is in affordable electric vehicles, a part of the market that our competitors are not focused on,” Barra said, adding that the segment “will be a significant source of growth for Chevrolet and Buick.”
The roughly $30,000 Chevrolet Equinox EV expected in late 2023 “will destroy the perception that sleek, practical, long-range EVs are luxury items.” A partnership with Honda is expected to add more models to GM’s portfolio in 2027.
GM said it plans to tie a significant portion of its long-term executive compensation to its EV goals. Barra didn’t provide a breakdown of what translates to “significant portion,” except to say that the company has added metrics for North American EV volume, EV launch time, and EV launch quality to the existing financial measures.
Additional details will come on April 29 in GM’s proxy statement.
The change illustrates Barra and the board’s ambitions to dominate electric vehicle sales in North America.
Barra’s compensation package in 2020 was $23.7 million, which includes $2 million in salary, $13.1 million in stock awards and a $3.78 million performance award.
General Motors said it expects to spend $2 billion this year on its Cruise autonomous driving subsidiary. While neither GM nor Cruise shared exactly what that flashy number will be used for, we can assume it’s tied to their marketing plans.
Cruise also aims to begin mass production of its purpose-built Origin AV in 2023 and is trying to ramp up a robotaxi service in San Francisco.
Looking at the breakdown in the earnings report, you can already see an increase in losses from last year. Cruise’s loss was $325 million in the first quarter, compared with a loss of $229 million in the same period last year. But GM is betting that its investments in Cruise will pay off big. The automaker has said it expects Cruise to generate $50 billion in annual revenue by the end of the decade.