GM reveals electric Chevy Silverado to counter Ford’s F-150 Lightning

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unveiled a new all-electric Chevrolet Silverado pickup on Wednesday, a much-anticipated introduction that comes as buzz is growing for the truck’s future rival:

Ford Motor Have.

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F-150 Lightning.

In a virtual presentation tied to the CES tech conference, GM CEO Mary Barra revealed the Silverado EV, GM’s best-selling and biggest-grossing plug-in version. The introduction of this new pickup truck – which is expected to hit dealerships as early as 2023 – is part of GM’s broader effort to electrify its global vehicle lineup. get rid of the gasoline engine that has long powered cars and trucks.

The move also comes as the centuries-old rivalry between GM-Ford is turning electric car era.

GM has previously said that the electric Silverado will have more high-tech features and a driving range – about 400 miles – compared with trucks from Ford and others in the fledgling electric pickup market. Ms. Barra also emphasized these attributes.

“What that car delivers, I think is second to none,” Ms. Barra said last month during an appearance at the Automotive Press Association.

The F-150 Lightning, however, is set to strike first.

Ford’s trucks are expected to go on sale in limited numbers this spring, about a year ahead of the expected launch of the all-electric Silverado. Ford shares rose nearly 12% on Tuesday after the company said it would double its planned plant capacity for plug-in trucks in response to 200,000 unexpected large orders.

That news and other recent electric vehicle moves by Ford helped boost the automaker’s market valuation over the past week above GM for the first time since 2016.

Traditional carmakers are pouring money into electric vehicle development and battery factories, spurred by tighter exhaust emissions rules and

Tesla Of Inc.

meteorite proliferation. Competition is expected to be especially fierce in the electric pickup truck market.

Ford announced a battery-powered version of its F-150 pickup in May 2021, joining other automakers in the fledgling electric truck segment. The F-150 Lightning beat a few competitors with a starting price of around $40,000. Photo: Dominick Sokotoff / Zuma Press (Video from 5/20/21)

GM and Ford will likely face more competition than they do today with large pickup trucks powered by internal combustion engines. For decades, companies in Detroit, along with Dodge-branded trucks – are now sold under

Stellantis

NV’s Ram brand — dominated the market. These high-priced pickups are the core earners for the automakers, driving the bulk of their profits.

Start up

Rivian

Automotive Inc. to be first to sell an electric pickup This fall, the R1T. Tesla CEO

Elon Musk

said at the Wall Street Journal CEO Council Summit last month that Cybertruck looks the future of the automaker will go into mass production in 2023, and will be Tesla’s best offering.

GM CEO Mary Barra has emphasized that the electric Silverado will have more high-tech features and driving range than Ford’s F-150 Lightning.


Photo:

swan mandel / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images

Still, GM and Ford executives keep a close eye on each other’s moves. especially in the truck market, where companies have long promoted expensive advertising campaigns about everything from the towing capacity to the durability of pickup beds.

“We are fast-tracking. Are we the first? No,” said Steve Majoros, vice president of marketing at Chevy. “Are we the best? It’s correct.”

Analysts say GM was widely seen as being ahead of Ford in the electric race in 2017 and announced in 2017 that it was preparing for an all-electric future. It quickly turned to investments in battery factories and converted assembly plants to electricity production instead of internal combustion vehicles.

GM CEO touted the company’s so-called Ultium technology, a configurable battery module and electric motor system versatile enough to underpin dozens of models in the coming years, from compact SUVs to powerful pickup trucks.

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The first vehicle to use Ultium started hitting showrooms a few weeks ago: the GMC Hummer, a muscular luxury truck that costs around $100,000. The electric Silverado will also use the system when it launches next spring, with prices ranging from about $40,000 to $105,000.

Nichole Kraatz, chief engineer for the Silverado EV, says her team was able to fit more batteries into the truck because the large battery pack serves as the vehicle’s structural framework, rather than fitting the battery between the steel frame rails of the vehicle. ordinary trucks. That should allow for 400 miles of range on some models, more than Rivian’s R1T (314 miles) and F-150 Lightning (300 miles expected).

Ms. Kraatz also said the truck’s cabin is wider than that of a traditional pickup. “We could have gone the route of a traditional, body-on-frame pickup, but there would be too many trade-offs,” she said.

Ford took a different approach to the battery-powered F-150, by far its best-selling and most profitable nameplate. Instead of building an electric truck from scratch, which would take much longer, engineers modified an existing gas-powered F-150, swapping out its engine and transmission for a new one. Large battery mounted underneath the car floor.

Charge first

Other WSJ reporting on EVs, selected by the editors.

The retrofit allows Ford to grow quickly and capitalize on its scale, because it uses many of the same components as the conventional F-150, said Darren Palmer, Ford general manager of electric vehicles. This has helped Ford price the F-150 Lightning aggressively, he said, at around $40,000 for a base model. Premium models go as high as $90,000.

“That approach allows us to uniquely offer so much performance at that price point,” said Mr. Palmer. “It is also a proven platform, so everyone is aware of the durability of the car. That’s hugely important at this stage of EVs. “

Sam Jaffe, vice president of battery storage systems at E Source, an energy research firm, says GM’s approach to its electric vehicles is more comprehensive than that of Ford. That would allow GM to offer more capabilities, such as battery range, even if it takes longer to bring to market, he said.

However, Mr. Jaffe said, “the strength of the F-150 brand is so great that it makes sense for Ford to build on a pre-existing vehicle design.” He said he expects Ford to adopt GM’s platform approach within the next few years.

Write letter for Mike Collias at Mike.Colias@wsj.com

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Ian Walker

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