DETROIT -- General Motors today disclosed plans for several new autonomous-driving and mobility initiatives -- from a New York City ride-sharing project to an electric bike -- in an effort to convince investors that it’s ready for a coming disruption in the way people worldwide get around.
CEO Mary Barra said the programs show that GM intends to be a “disruptor” as new technologies create alternative transportation models that promise to reshape the automotive industry’s business model.
“We’re working to redefine customers’ personal mobility and how they’ll interact and get from point A to point B,” Barra told reporters today ahead of the company’s annual conference for investors and Wall Street analysts at its main test track in Milford, Mich. “How do we change that relationship and own that relationship with the customer both inside and outside the vehicle?”
Among the programs GM said it plans to detail today:
- The automaker will launch a fleet of self-driving Chevrolet Volts for employees at its main technical center near Detroit by late 2016, which will serve as a development lab to accelerate its autonomous-driving programs. It confirmed that its Super Cruise autonomous system, which allows hands-free driving under certain conditions, will debut on the 2017 Cadillac CT6.
- GM recently started a car-sharing and ride-sharing project in New York City and plans a second one in an undisclosed U.S. city in the first quarter.
- The company plans to unveil an electric bike concept at the conference, “demonstrating the company’s evolving view of ‘mobility’ in an ever-changing, increasingly urban world.”
- GM's fuel-cell partnership with Honda, forged in 2013, will produce “a commercially viable fuel cell vehicle” by around 2020.
To help pay for the investments in new technologies, GM said it is redoubling efforts to wring costs from the business. It said it expects to generate about $5.5 billion in reduced administrative, manufacturing and purchasing expenses by the end of 2018.
GM also said that vehicles that are either new or refreshed will account for a growing proportion of its sales, from 26 percent of volume this year to 39 percent next year and 40 percent in 2017.
Analysts have cited the emergence of autonomous driving and mobility providers such as Uber as potential opportunities -- and competitive threats -- for traditional automakers.
Google, for example, demonstrated its self-driving car at an event in California this week. And The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Apple Inc. plans to begin selling an electric car by 2019.
“We are on the cusp of a sea change that will result in a new business model for the industry,” GM global product chief Mark Reuss told reporters. “We’re going to be the disruptors."