GM’s Mary Barra Makes a U-Turn on China
GM CEO Mary Barra said Tuesday that she is fully on board with China’s goal, announced last month, to ban gasoline-powered vehicles—despite having initially criticized the plan.
“Clearly we believe the Chinese market will have the highest [number of] electric vehicles most quickly, because of the regulatory environment,” Barra said at Fortune‘s Most Powerful Women summit in Washington, D.C. The 20 new all-electric cars that GM (GM) is rolling out, following the success of its Chevrolet Bolt EV, will also be available in China, she added.
“So we’re very committed to an all-electric future,” Barra continued.
Barra, No. 1 on Fortune’s Most Powerful Women list this year, appeared to contradict her earlier statements disapproving of China’s strategy with the ban. “I think it works best when, instead of mandating, customers are choosing the technology that meets their needs,” she said in a speech in Shanghai in September, as reported by The New York Times.
She walked back those comments Tuesday, however, saying that in fact, GM is working to capitalize on a potential future without cars that run on gas.
“The point I was trying to make, that kind of got spun into something a little different, was at the end of the day you still have to make customers happy and you have to fill their needs,” Barra explained. “And so we’ve encouraged the Chinese government to work with us and work with the industry to make sure we’re creating the excitement and demand for electric vehicles, as opposed to it just being mandated.”
GM stock hit an all-time high last week after it unveiled its new slate of electric cars, making it once again more valuable by market capitalization than Tesla (TSLA), its chief rival in both electric and self-driving cars.
Barra boasted of GM’s progress with autonomous vehicles. Her enthusiasm has its limits, however: She said she herself will always want to be behind the wheel of her own car, she said.