GM's official run at Tesla starts with its electric Hummer debut Tuesday night

Key Points
  • As the Ford Bronco and Jeep Wrangler battle over traditional off-road supremacy next year, GM has its sights set on a new segment with a different competitor: Tesla.
  • The GMC Hummer EV pickup will be the first real test of GM to directly compete against Tesla.
  • The vehicle is scheduled to debut Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET during the World Series, "The Voice," and across a barrage of social media and streaming platforms.
GM revives the Hummer as an electric truck
GM revives the Hummer as an electric truck

As the Ford Bronco and Jeep Wrangler battle over traditional off-road supremacy next year, General Motors has its sights set on a new segment with a different competitor: Tesla.

The Detroit automaker resurrects the Hummer on Tuesday night as an all-electric "supertruck" that's set to go on sale in roughly a year – likely ahead of Tesla's Cybertruck. It will be GM's first real test as a competitor against Tesla. It also will be the first vehicle with the company's next-generation EV platform and batteries, known as Ultium.

GM had the time and resources to bring back Hummer with an internal combustion engine to directly compete against the upcoming Bronco and Wrangler, but decided against it.

In fact, GM President Mark Reuss told CNBC that the decision to resurrect Hummer as an EV was made during a quick conversation between himself, GM CEO Mary Barra and at least one other executive in early 2019 about reimagining Hummer for a new generation of buyers. What followed was potentially one of the most aggressive and ambitious launch schedules the company has ever undertaken.

GM President Mark Reuss announces a $2.2 billion investment in the automaker's Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant in Michigan for new all-electric trucks and autonomous vehicles on Jan. 27, 2020.
Michael Wayland / CNBC

"We just wanted to do it. We saw the opportunity for trucks," Reuss said during GM's "EV Day" earlier this year. "We always wanted to do this with Hummer, but it had so much baggage from a gas guzzler standpoint, so we turned it on its head."

GM's EV Day showcased about a dozen of the automaker's upcoming electric vehicles, including pickup and SUV versions of the GMC Hummer. The vehicles are part of the company's "triple zero" vision of zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion -- an overarching goal for the company that Barra announced in 2017.

The Hummer pickup is scheduled to be unveiled Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET during the World Series, "The Voice," and across a barrage of social media and streaming platforms.

'Huge desire'

The GMC Hummer pickup is the lead vehicle in the company's plan to invest $20 billion in autonomous and all-electric vehicles through 2025, including at least 20 new electric vehicles globally by 2023.

GM has reconfirmed those plans for the investment despite the coronavirus pandemic. The company last week also said the launch of the Hummer pickup, which it's calling a sport utility truck, or SUT, is on time for next fall.

"I think it will act as a vehicle that just creates huge desire out there. I think it'll become a symbol of what's possible with electric," GMC Vice President Duncan Aldred told CNBC. "I think it will draw people into the electric space that may not have considered it otherwise. Because of that, it's a huge vehicle for General Motors."

Duncan Aldred, vice president of Buick-GMC sales for General Motors Co., speaks next to a GMC Sierra Denali HD truck displayed during an event in Chula Vista, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019.
Sandy Huffaker | Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Hummer EV sport utility truck is expected to be one of the first electric trucks available for sale next year. It is anticipated to be a lifestyle truck more than a work truck and arrive in dealer lots before the Cybertruck as well as pickups from start-ups such as Rivian.

Ford is scheduled to release an electric version of its F-150 pickup by mid-2022. It is expected to be more work-oriented and compete more against an anticipated pickup from start-up Lordstown Motors than the Hummer. GM has confirmed plans for a Chevrolet work truck but the company has not released timing.

Sport utility truck

GM announced it was resurrecting Hummer during a Super Bowl ad in February. It was expected to be unveiled in May but was delayed due to the pandemic.

The Hummer EV pickup, according to GM, will feature 1,000 horsepower; 0 to 60 mph acceleration of three seconds; and 11,500 pound feet of torque.

"From a GM/GMC perspective, this is a big, bold statement of our intent for the future in the EV space," Phil Brook, vice president of GMC marketing, told CNBC. "We see this at a GMC level as really, really important and critical to our future."

The vehicle will feature an open-air layout in which customers can remove the roof and, potentially, the doors. The exterior is expected to feature a new iteration of Hummer's traditional slotted grille with "HUMMER" backlit across the front of the truck.

"It's not like anything else on the market," Brook said.

Other expected features include a "crab mode," which allows the vehicle to move in a diagonal direction; fast charging; a new digital cockpit layout in partnership with Epic Games; and the automaker's next-generation Super Cruise driver-assist highway system.

Out with the old

GM's previous Hummer included an SUV and a short-lived pickup variant. The design was based on the military vehicle known as the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, or "Humvee." During the early 2000s, the Hummer was a popular vehicle but also a source of criticism because of its size and poor gas mileage at around 15 mpg.

Here's why the Hummer disappeared from America
Why the Hummer disappeared from America

The plan to sell Hummer under the GMC brand is expected to save the automaker substantial capital compared with launching it again as a stand-alone brand. It also will provide GMC with its first all-electric vehicle as part of the company's pivot to such vehicles.

"We intend to be profitable in this transformation," Barra said during the automaker's "EV Day."

The GMC truck and SUV brand has become a profitable workhorse for the Detroit automaker with an affluent and educated customer base. Adding the Hummer EV, which is expected to command high transaction prices as a lifestyle pickup, will likely add to the brand's profits and customer base.

"Hummer EV will just add on that," Aldred said, citing the success of the brand's off-road AT4 brand. "It will add on to it, taking that premium off-road experience to an even more premium level, capable level and even more technologically advanced level – really broadening GMC's reach as we go forward into a different future and a zero-zero-zero future."

The GMC Hummer EV will be revealed on May 20 and built at General Motors' Detroit-Hamtramck plant in Michigan.