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CEO Mary Barra says GM "aggressively moving" on electric vehicles, says automaker could top Tesla

CEO Mary Barra on electric vehicles
General Motors CEO Mary Barra predicts EV dominance by mid-decade 04:44

General Motors is doubling down on electric vehicles. GM is investing nearly $7 billion in Michigan to build a new battery plant and overhaul an existing factory to make electric trucks.

The company says this will create 4,000 new jobs and marks its largest-ever one-time investment in EVs. Overall, GM plans to spend $35 billion by 2025 to produce electric vehicles

In an interview with "CBS Mornings," GM CEO Mary Barra said that they are all in when it comes to the automaker's EV future.

"We want to lead in EVs. Full stop," Barra told CBS News' Ben Tracy. "And so that's where we're aggressively moving."

Tracy met up with Barra at Factory Zero, GM's first assembly plant for zero-emissions electric vehicles.  It's currently turning out electric versions of GM's iconic Hummer brand.

But a huge truck that costs more than $100,000 is not what most Americans want or can afford. So GM is now spending $4 billion to overhaul its plant in Orion, Michigan, to start making an electric version of one of its most popular models: the Chevy Silverado pickup truck. The starting price is about $40,000.

"We lead in truck share in this country," she said. "It is a franchise for us. We're going to defend our position and we plan to grow it."

The competition is fierce: Ford plans to start delivering its electric F-150 pickup this spring. Tesla is hyping its futuristic cyber truck.

Barra said GM is also working on EVs with a price point that most Americans can afford.

"The Equinox EV crossover is going to start around $30,000," she said. "We're also working on a vehicle that will even be more affordable than that."

"Customers are starting to be much more interested in EVs but they want the vehicle they want," she added.

Barra said the transition to electric vehicles is now inevitable. It's also seen as essential to reducing carbon emissions from gas-powered vehicles that are contributing to rapidly warm the planet.

GM believes it can drive down the cost of EVs and more quickly roll out new models because of its customizable battery system called Ultium. It's the platform all of its future EVs will run on.

Barra is trying to position GM as the leader in electric vehicles, promising to go all electric by 2035.

"I think we are incredibly well positioned and we aren't going to cede our leadership position to anyone," Barra said.

But right now Tesla commands nearly 70% of EV sales in the U.S. while GM is only about 6% of the market.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently trolled GM on Twitter saying, "Hypothetically, if they did make lots of electric cars, then they would be the leader."

Barra  remains optimistic.  "When you look at how many vehicles we're going to be able to launch across many segments, that's why by mid-decade we think we'll be in a leadership position," she said.

Asked whether she thinks GM could catch Tesla by 2025 or 2026, Barra said, "Clearly, that's what we're working from a North America perspective and we're just gonna keep going until we have global leadership as well."

There have been setbacks. Last summer GM was forced to recall every Chevy Bolt and Bolt EUV due to concerns over battery fires. The recall, coupled with a shortage of critical computer chips, sent GM's EV sales plummeting to just 26 vehicles in the fourth quarter of last year.

"It's always hard, but one of my mantras is you gotta do the right thing even when it's hard. So it was disappointing, yes, but we did the right thing," Barra said.

"And what do you say to somebody who now says, 'Yeah I am interested in buying an EV, but I'm not sure they're safe?'" Tracy asked her.

"I think people have to look at who's got the experience," Barra said. "We have a lot of learnings built into the electric vehicles General Motors is producing."

And Barra believes guiding GM into an all-electric future is one of the highlights of her career.

"It will be a very different company. And, you know, I've been at General Motors my whole career and I'm so excited about where we're headed," Barra said. 

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