DETROIT – General Motors’ second chance at establishing itself as a mass-market leader in all-electric vehicles is expected to begin next year with the arrival of the Chevrolet Equinox EV.
The all-electric crossover is scheduled to go on sale in the U.S. next fall, starting at around $30,000 – a price level many automakers haven’t been able to achieve as the cost to build electric vehicles and the batteries needed to power them continues to rise.
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GM executives expect the 2024 Equinox EV, officially unveiled Thursday, to become a high-volume seller for the Detroit automaker, as it transitions to exclusively offer electric cars and trucks by 2035.
“We think this is our big opportunity here to really start to get a massive adoption, and we have that expectation with the price; the volume that we expect to do,” Scott Bell, global vice president of Chevrolet, said during a media briefing. “This is a game changer for us and for the industry.”
Bell said Equinox EV production at GM’s Ramos Arizpe plant in Mexico will ramp up gradually in the coming years. The Equinox EV is expected to join electric versions of the Silverado pickup, Blazer SUV, and the less expensive and smaller Bolt EV and EUV models for Chevrolet.
GM CEO Mary Barra last year said the Detroit automaker can “absolutely” catch industry leader Tesla in U.S. sales of electric vehicles by 2025. Those plans include more than 1 million units of EV production capacity in China and North America, each, by that time.
Barra on Thursday told CNBC’s Phil LeBeau that the automaker expects to ramp up production of the Equinox EV far more quickly than its current EVs. She said the vehicle should be close to full production by the first quarter of 2024.
The automaker began production of battery cells this year through a joint venture with LG Energy Solution at a plant in Ohio, speeding up EV output. Two other U.S. plants battery plants are also under construction, with a fourth plant expected to be announced soon.
“It is a big year for us. … This battery plant that we have in Ohio is going to enable us to really start scaling because we’re going to have the cells being made in this country,” Barra said. “Next year’s a huge year. I can’t wait because we’re going to unleash the power of General Motors.”
Priced to sell?
The expected starting price of the Equinox EV at roughly $30,000 is less than half the $66,000-plus average transaction price of electric vehicles currently on sale, according to Cox Automotive. The price also brings the Equinox in line with gas-powered compact crossovers/SUVs at an average price of $35,300, according to the auto forecasting and research company.
“An electric Equinox is important to GM because it is a high-volume model in the most popular segment in the industry,” said Michelle Krebs, executive analyst at Cox. “We know from our studies that price of EVs is the No. 1 obstacle to EV adoption with range and charging infrastructure falling.
“Affordable EVs are critical to proliferating EVs.”
The Chevy Bolt, which went on sale in December 2016, was expected to be GM’s first affordable, mainstream EV but its annual sales have yet to top 25,000 – a far cry from mainstream sales such as the gas-powered Equinox at hundreds of thousands of units per year.
“The Bolt has seen mild success but was never really intended as a high-volume EV model,” said Paul Waatti, manager of industry analysis at AutoPacific. “The funky design and market positioning require a bit of a unique buyer.”
The Equinox EV will enter a much larger market than the smaller Bolt models. The new crossover is powered by GM’s next-generation Ultium electric vehicle platform that’s expected to enable more technologies and capabilities compared with the outgoing battery technology of the Bolt models.
The Equinox EV is expected to offer between 250 miles and 300 miles of range, depending on the model and battery. A standard front-wheel-drive Equinox is projected to offer 210 horsepower and 242 foot-pounds of torque, with all-wheel-drive models achieving 290-horsepower and 346 foot-pounds of torque.
Despite the name, the Equinox EV shares little to nothing with the traditional gas-powered model. It has more in common with the recently unveiled Chevrolet Blazer, which also utilizes GM’s Ultium platform and batteries.
The Equinox EV will feature better performance than its gas-powered namesake but falls shy of the performance of the Blazer EV, which starts at $45,000 and offers up to 557 horsepower and 648 pounds-foot of torque.
The interiors of the electric vehicles also are similar, including a 17.7-inch-diagonal infotainment touch screen that’s standard on the Blazer and optional on the Equinox.
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