(CBS Detroit) — General Motors announced plans to spend nearly $7 billion to convert a factory to make electric pickup trucks and to build a new battery cell plant.
In an exclusive interview, CEO Mary Barra discussed the future as well as its setbacks.READ MORE: Michigan Announces $1.5 Million Tuition Giveaway, 100 Children To Receive $15,000
“We wanna lead in EVs, full stop. And so that’s where we’re aggressively moving,” Barra said.
While a large truck, like the Hummer, that costs more than $100,000 is not what most Americans want or can afford, GM is now spending $4 billion to overhaul its plant in Orion Township to start making an electric version of one of its most popular models — the Chevy Silverado. The starting price is $40,000.
“We lead in truck share in this country… It is a franchise for us,” Barra said. “We’re going to defend our position and we plan to grow it.”
The competition is fierce. Ford starts making its electric F-150 Lightning this spring. Tesla is hyping its futuristic cybertruck, and electric vehicle startup Rivian is adding its own model to a now crowded EV truck market.
When it comes to the first true mass-market car at a price point most American can afford, Barra said: “The Equinox EV crossover is gonna start around $30,000… We’re also working on a vehicle that will even be more affordable than that.
“Customers are starting to be much more interested in EVs but they want the vehicle they want.”
Barra said the transition to electric vehicles is now inevitable. It’s also seen as essential to reducing carbon emissions from gas-powered vehicles that are helping to rapidly warm the planet.
GM believes it can drive down the cost of electric vehicles and quickly roll out new models because of its customizable battery system called Ultium — the platform all of its future EVs will run on. The company is now building massive battery plants in Ohio and Tennessee and just announced a new $2.6 billion battery facility in Lansing.READ MORE: AAA Offers 'Tow To Go' Program During Memorial Day Weekend
Barra is trying to position GM as the leader in electric vehicles, promising to go all-electric by 2035. Tesla currently commands just under 70% of EV sales in the U.S. while GM is only about 6% of the market.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently trolled GM on Twitter, saying: “Hypothetically, if they did make lots of electric cars, then they would be the leader.”
“When you look at how many vehicles we’re going to be able to launch across many segments. That’s why by mid-decade we think we’ll be in a leadership position,” Barra said.
When asked whether GM could catch Tesla by 2025, Barra said: “That’s what we’re working from a North America perspective and we’re just gonna keep going until we have global leadership as well.”
There have been setbacks. Last summer, GM was forced to recall every Chevy Bolt and Bolt EUV its made due to concerns over battery fires. The recall coupled with a shortage of critical computer chips sent GM’s EV sales plummeting to just 26 vehicles in the fourth quarter of last year.
“It’s always hard but you know one of my mantras, if you gotta do the right thing even when it’s hard. So it was disappointing, yes, but we did the right thing,” Barra said.
“I think people have to look at who’s got the experience? We have a lot of learnings built into the electric vehicles General Motors is producing… I’m very confident of the new battery packs we’re putting in the Bolt. I wouldn’t trade our position and in the not too distant future, we’ll be selling Bolts again.”
Barra said guiding GM into an all-electric future is one of the highlights of her career.
“It will be a very different company… I’ve been at General Motors my whole career and I’m so excited about where we’re headed,” she said.MORE NEWS: Holiday Travel And Gas: What To Expect At The Pump
© 2022 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.