- GM made headlines at CES with announcements of new EVs, including the Silverado and Equinox, progress on autonomous vehicles and thousands of orders for its BrightDrop electric work vans.
- Reaction to the Silverado EV by Wall Street analysts has largely been positive, however some questioned the lack of options and timing of the launch.
DETROIT – General Motors made several announcements at the CES technology show Wednesday that investors should take note of – specifically its future plans for electric and autonomous vehicles.
GM CEO Mary Barra, who was one of the event's headliners, unveiled the 2024 Chevrolet Silverado EV pickup that's expected to go on sale next year against Ford Motor's electric F-150 and Rivian Automotive's R1T, among others.
Reaction to the Silverado EV by Wall Street analysts has largely been positive, however some questioned the lack of options and timing of the launch. Specifically, the company's decision to only launch with two trims, giving Ford's F-150 Lightning that's launching this spring a one-year advantage.
Shares of GM closed Wednesday down 3.6% to $62.74 a share amid a broader market selloff. The stock was largely unchanged through midday trading Thursday.
"While the Silverado specs were very solid, they arguably came largely as expected, and we believe that investors may have been 'selling the news,'" Deutsche Bank analyst Emmanuel Rosner told investors in a note Thursday. He said investors "may also have been surprised" by the launch cadence that includes a fleet model in spring 2023, followed by a $105,000 consumer model in the fall.
Credit Suisse analyst Dan Levy called the timing "somewhat of a disappointment for investors" in a Tuesday note.
But the Silverado EV wasn't the only news investors should have paid attention to Wednesday. Others included electric van orders for GM's BrightDrop unit, personal autonomous vehicle plans and timing on two new EVs. Here's more on those things and others from GM's CES presentation.
GM's electric commercial vehicle unit BrightDrop, which it debuted a year ago at CES, announced deals with Walmart and FedEx to buy thousands of its EV vans.
Walmart signed a new agreement with BrightDrop to reserve 5,000 electric vans, while FedEx added an additional 2,000 vans to a previous order of 500. FedEx said that order could increase to 20,000 electric vans.
Alan Wexler, GM's senior vice president of innovation and growth, called such orders "critically important" for the business, which began delivering the first vans to FedEx last month.
"It's a big market," he told CNBC. "It's important for our commercial segment because I think there's going to be a halo that extends even into our traditional kind of fleet business as we talk to Walmart, FedEx, and others."
$30,000 Equinox EV
In addition to revealing the Silverado EV for 2023, Barra said GM will offer EV versions of the Chevrolet Equinox and Chevrolet Blazer next year. The electric Equinox will start around $30,000, she said.
Wall Street analysts view the vehicles as GM's first truly mainstream EVs on the company's new Ultium batteries and platform.
"Both vehicles are critical, as they will represent GM's first bid at high-volume EV entries, and GM's first true shot against (Tesla's) Model 3 / Y," Levy said.
Barra showed images of the electric Equinox but did not disclose any additional details about that vehicle or the Blazer EV.
GM targets Tesla's FSD
GM plans to begin offering a new "door-to-door" hands-free driving system with greater capabilities than Tesla's "FSD" system beginning next year.
The Detroit automaker has said its new "Ultra Cruise" system will be capable of operating hands-free in 95% of all driving scenarios. That compares to Tesla's "FSD" system that is designed to operate with drivers' hands on the wheel.
Barra on Wednesday said the Cadillac Celestiq, an upcoming luxury electric sedan, will be among the first vehicles with the technology.
"Celestiq will be a true halo for Cadillac in every way," Barra said, adding the Celestiq will be hand-built and available in "exclusive volumes."
Barra confirmed two major plans Wednesday regarding GM's autonomous vehicle plans, which the automaker has been investing billions in for several years.
Most notable, Barra said GM's majority-owned autonomous vehicle unit Cruise is expected to commercialize a ride-hailing service in San Francisco in the coming months. Crusie applied for the last permit needed to commercialize the operations in November.
She also said that GM and Cruise plan to offer consumers personal autonomous EVs by mid-decade. The new timeline was accompanied by GM's Cadillac luxury brand unveiling a sleek new personal self-driving EV concept called InnerSpace.
The concept is part of Cadillac's "Halo Concept Portfolio" that started a year ago at CES with an urban air mobility vehicle and a shared autonomous shuttle. Such products could be crucial for GM to offer subscription services to create recurring revenue to assist in its plans to double revenue to $280 billion by 2030.
"We're taking very much a holistic approach to how we think about subscriptions across our business," Wexler said.
Separate from Barra's keynote, a GM-backed start-up that makes electric outboard motors for boats called Pure Watercraft revealed a new electric pontoon boat at CES.
GM last year acquired a 25% stake in the Seattle-based company. GM will supply components as part of the $150 million deal with Pure Watercraft, a co-developer of new products, and will provide engineering, design and manufacturing expertise to help the start-up establish new factories.
The deal is part of GM's plans to offer its fuel cell and Ultium electric vehicle technologies to segments outside of automotive. It previously announced tie-ups or deals in locomotive, aerospace and defense.
– CNBC"s Michael Bloom contributed to this report.