Why Mary Barra is convinced GM can still catch TSLA—and believes the stock is ‘so undervalued’

Automotive giant General Motors is worth $85 billion. At the New York Times’ DealBook Online Summit Wednesday, GM’s CEO, Mary Barra, said the company is “so undervalued.”

GM has about 10% of the electric-vehicle (EV) market, Andrew Ross Sorkin pointed out, while Tesla has about 63%. Even so, Barra said, she considers GM the U.S. leader, and the No. 2 in China, setting aside the current semiconductor chip shortage.

“To get to 50% EVs, you have to win customers who only own one vehicle and depend on it every day,” she said. “General Motors has brands they trust. We have the highest loyalty rating; we have manufacturing plants ready to go. So when I look at our ability to scale to serve customers, I think we’re incredibly well-positioned, and we’re not going to cede our leadership position to anyone.”

In October, Barra told CNBC GM can “absolutely” catch Tesla in U.S. EV sales by 2025. The company shared plans to release 30 EVs in the next three years. “We’ll be rolling them out, and we’re going to just keep working until we have No. 1 market share,” she said.

At its Investor Day, GM announced it would be allocating $750 million for EV-related charging and maintenance infrastructure.

“Our customers want to know there’s a trusted infrastructure, so we’re working with a number of startups and doing our own investment, because we think people need to be able to charge at home, at work, and on the road,” she said. “I think ultimately, having a charging infrastructure that’s open to everyone is how we’re going to accelerate EVs faster.”

GM’s autonomous-vehicle subsidiary, Cruise, is also surging ahead when it comes to autonomous vehicles, even against Tesla’s Autopilot, due to its “deep technology integration, and the fact that we’re leveraging all our automotive know-how,” Barra said.

“Our technology has independently been assessed to be the best. We have a very robust plan,” she said. “We’re solving the superhard problem, and then taking costs down, while continuing to increase. I wouldn’t trade our autonomy position with anyone.”

“I’ll let you claim that [GM] is in the lead, if you like,” Sorkin said.

“Yes, I like,” Barra responded.

In September, Barra was appointed the first female chair of the Business Roundtable, a role she’ll begin in January, succeeding Walmart CEO Doug McMillon. BRT represents nearly 200 CEOs, whose companies employ 20 million people and create $9 trillion in annual revenue. As the face of both BRT and GM, Barra will need to delegate whose interests come first. 

Barra hedged on picking a favorite. “I think there are going to be times when [GM and BRT] are very aligned,” she said. “But I have a job as the chairman and CEO of General Motors to represent what’s in its best interests, and how we move forward.”

“Who gets the first preference?” Sorkin asked.

“I’m going to have to look at what role I’m in,” Barra responded. “In fact, I think Doug McMillon and JPMorgan Chase [CEO] Jamie Dimon before me have done an excellent job in balancing that. And I’m going to follow that same path.”

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