- CEO Mary Barra and other executives laid out an array of future business plans at the CES technology conference — from electric vehicles to flying cars.
- As Barra put it, the mission of the Tuesday keynote was to promote "confidence" in the automaker's strategy.
- GM showed how it's integrating new businesses and why it refused to spin off its EV business last year amid pressure from Wall Street.
Shares of General Motors opened Wednesday above $50 for the first time ever after CEO Mary Barra and other executives laid out an array of future business plans — from electric vehicles to flying cars — at the CES technology conference.
As Barra put it, the mission of the presentation Tuesday was to promote "confidence" in the automaker's business, including GM's "triple zero" vision of transportation without emissions, congestion and crashes.
GM used the event to flex its size and scale more than ever before. It showed how it's integrating new businesses and why it refused to spin off its EV business last year amid pressure from Wall Street.
"We believe investors should prepare for a profound narrative change at GM put into action in 2021," Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas wrote in a note to investors Tuesday. "There is a lot more to come in terms of rolling out independent business units with its own management teams, technological domains and go-to-market strategies."
GM's stock closed up 1.9% at $48.73 a share, setting a new closing record after hitting an intraday high of $50.97 earlier Wednesday. The automaker's market cap is $69.7 billion.
Here are five reasons the shares are taking off this week:
As Wall Street bets on which electric vehicle start-up will become the next Tesla, GM has poured billions into EVs and plans to deliver 30 new models globally by 2025. It's part of GM's $27 billion investment in electric and autonomous vehicles through then.
At CES, which is being streamed online this year, GM released new details of upcoming EVs, specifically for its luxury Cadillac brand.
A sedan called the Cadillac Celestiq is expected to be a new flagship vehicle for the automaker, featuring a personalized zone for each passenger. That includes a new glass roof made of smart glass that allows each occupant to set their own transparency levels.
"That equal and individual experience for each occupant will be a signature aspect of the Cadillac Celestiq," said Crystal Windham, Cadillac director of interior design.
GM also previewed several unnamed EVs in the background as part of the presentation, including at least one Chevrolet crossover, two Cadillacs and two Buicks. The company declined to comment further on the upcoming models.
GM unveiled a new electric delivery van as part of a new EV commercial vehicle and logistics business called BrightDrop. GM has a full portfolio of electric products, not just vehicles, planned for the new unit, according to executives.
"BrightDrop is a new business from GM that reimagines commercial delivery and logistics for an all-electric future," Barra said. "BrightDrop provides an ecosystem of smart, connected products, including electric vehicles and software-enabled services, offering commercial delivery companies a platform for sustainable growth."
The commercial market is expected to be a major growth area for EVs. Other start-up automakers such as Amazon-backed Rivian as well as legacy automakers such as Ford Motor and Daimler have announced plans to enter the segment. GM estimates the combined market opportunity for parcel, food delivery and reverse logistics in the U.S. will be more than $850 billion by 2025.
The first product from BrightDrop will be a propulsion-assisted electric pallet called the EP1 that's scheduled to go on sale by March. It was developed to easily move goods over short distances — for example, from the delivery vehicle to the customer's front door.
The van, called EV600, will be the second product. The first 500 vans will go to FedEx beginning later this year.
Don't like driving? How about flying?
GM previewed an electric air taxi concept, formally known as an electric vertical take-off and landing, or eVTOL, aircraft, for its Cadillac brand.
The flying vehicle is designed to operate autonomously without a pilot. It can hold one passenger and travel roughly 56 mph between rooftops and other urban destinations, according to the company.
"We are preparing for a world where advances in electric and autonomous technology make personal air travel possible," said Michael Simcoe, vice president of GM global design. "As a passenger, it represents personal space and a panoramic view of the world passing beneath you and is a glimpse of what autonomy and Cadillac luxury might look like in the not-too-distant future."
Ultium is GM's next-generation battery system that will underpin its future EVs beginning later this year with the GMC Hummer EV pickup, followed by the BrightDrop van and a Cadillac crossover called the Lyriq.
The Ultium battery cell is a flat, rectangular pouch that was designed by GM and is being produced through a joint venture with LG Chem. The cells go into modules that then jointly power the vehicle inside the vehicle's base, or platform.
The Ultium cells produce 60% more energy capacity than GM's current battery cells, allowing for greater range with fewer cells, which also lowers cost. The end result is a battery that will produce up to 450 miles of range on a single charge, at nearly 40% less cost and 25% less weight than its current electric batteries, according to GM.
The Ultium pouches can be stacked vertically or horizontally. They allow the company to use the Ultium platform, including the cells, for everything from large pickup trucks or vans to smaller cars and crossovers.
GM said it is already working on its next-generation battery chemistry that's expected to reduce reliance on cobalt and nickel – two costly elements in current EVs. The next-generation vehicles are expected to offer up to 600 miles of range on a single charge, according to the automaker.
GM is investing billions in autonomous vehicles, but they largely took a back seat to EVs for the automaker at this year's CES.
The main news from CES was a self-driving concept vehicle for Cadillac. It features a luxurious interior that the company said includes hand signal controls and biometric sensors to monitor vital signs to adjust temperature, humidity, lighting, ambient noise and even aromatics.
The Cadillac model resembled the Origin, a shared autonomous shuttle unveiled last year by Cruise, GM's majority-owned self-driving vehicle subsidiary. Both are built on GM's Ultium platform.
The automaker also featured its Super Cruise hands-free driving system, reconfirming a plan to offer the technology on 22 vehicles by 2023.