GM is going 'all-electric,' but it doesn't expect to make money off battery-powered cars until early next decade

Key Points
  • GM's electric vehicles won't be profitable for a few more years, said GM CEO Mary Barra
  • The automaker gave no specific details on when it will release an electric pickup
Mary Barra, Chairman and CEO of General Motors, and Mark Reuss, Executive Vice President of GM Global Product Development, reveal the Chevrolet Bolt EV to the news media at the 2016 North American International Auto Show January 11th, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan.
Bill Pugliano | Getty Images

General Motors does not expect its electric vehicles to turn a profit for at least a few more years, CEO Mary Barra told investors Wednesday.

The largest U.S. automaker repeated its commitment Wednesday to make its entire vehicle lineup "all-electric," but provided investors with few details about those plans on a conference call after GM reported fourth-quarter earnings that beat expectations.

However, GM is clear that its electric vehicles won't make money until "early next decade," Barra said.

Turning a profit from electric vehicles has long been considered a major challenge for automakers, which are pouring money into electric vehicle, EV, technology in the face of fluctuating oil prices, government initiatives to reduce carbon pollution and excitement over Tesla.

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The California-based electric car maker has recently pulled off two profitable quarters in a row after losing money for years. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said in the past that he expected the company to start turning regular profits beginning in the third quarter of 2018. So far Tesla has made good on that promise, but some investors are still cautious, if not skeptical that the company can maintain that momentum.

Barra also demurred when asked when customers can expect to see an electric pickup truck from GM, saying simply that the company is "committed to an all-electric future" and to "stay tuned" for more news.

Meanwhile, other automakers have announced their intentions to move further into electric vehicles. For example, Ford is planning an all-electric version of its best-selling F-150 full-size pickup. Its first foray into EVs will be a new crossover inspired by the Mustang that executives say will be built for driving enthusiasts.

GM recently said it plans to make its luxury brand Cadillac the lead brand for its electrification efforts.