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“This is a correction,” she said. “GM plants are building more cars that people just don’t want to buy. This has very little to do with tariffs, though I’m sure that’s a part. But this is about the fundamentals of the business.”
That view is echoed by Sven Beiker, the Palo Alto, CA-based managing director of Silicon Valley Mobility. GM announced it would be discontinuing sedans from across its various brands, including the Chevy Volt, Impala, and Cruze; the Cadillac CT6; and the Buick LaCrosse. In past interviews, Beiker has been outspoken about his admiration for Barra’s sharpness and approach.
I asked Beiker what he made of GM discontinuing the Volt, given the company’s emphasis on electrification in the future. Although the electric Volt, which also has a backup engine, was touted as a game-changer and lavishly promoted when it debuted, it failed to truly catch on with consumers. He said his faith in Barra remains intact, knowing that making factory closures is a difficult, multi-factored decision.
“I assume [eliminating the Volt] was not a decision driven by passion, but finances,” Beiker said. “It was larger than a Nissan Leaf, it had no range restriction, it was American-made—it had all of the flexibility and fuel efficiency. I really thought this would catch on, but it didn’t. Maybe they should have put it in an SUV.”
Although the world was a different place when the Volt was launched in 2010—gas was expensive and the economy was in tatters—Beiker said he is somewhat pained that humanity, especially in the face of increasingly dire climate warnings, continues to gobble up cars on the gas-guzzling end of the spectrum. And it’s not just a North American phenomenon. When he visits family in Germany, he sees small SUVs everywhere.
“They’re booming over there, it’s definitely a global market,” he said. “No doubt autonomous vehicles and more electric vehicles are in our future, but consumers still prefer SUVs and trucks—smaller SUVs for sure.” But until shared mobility is a reality, he said traditional vehicles aren’t going anywhere.