Early in 2021, GM announced a new direction for their brand with a redesigned logo and revamped brand message. Social media whiners immediately moved to attack the logo’s design, describing it in a variety of negative terms and, for the most part, completely missing the point of GM’s endeavor. As with all brands, the logo is not the brand, it’s just a symbol of the message and the promise that the brand intends to deliver.
And make no mistake, GM’s new brand promise is a bold move. They are seeking to stake a claim as a leading provider of all-electric cars and have promised to offer 30 new electric vehicle models (EVs) by 2025. I did the math, and that’s four years and about 28 new models from now, so there must be quite a few fresh car concepts in the pipeline. GM says that we can look forward to an electric SUV priced under $30,000, vehicles with a range of up to 450 miles, and zero-to-60 times as low as three seconds. (Also did this math. That is very fast.)
GM believes that they have a strategic edge with their still-developing Ultium battery technology, which will allow EVs to perform much more like gasoline-powered cars and will soon be able to match their price tags. Electric car sales are growing nationally and globally, but still make up a small percentage of overall vehicle sales.
So good news, right? There is nowhere to go but up. However, standing in the way of GM’s electric vision are several other EV brands that currently far outsell the EV options from the Detroit mainstay. According to insideevs.com, cumulative sales leaders are the Tesla Model 3 at 645,000 units, the Nissan Leaf at 490,000, and the Tesla Model S at 305,000 units. Renault, two models from the Chinese brand BAIC, and the BMW i3 follow. (All these sales combined would amount to less than 10 percent of the cars and light trucks sold in just the US each year, about 17 million in 2019.)
Investors see the Tesla brand as the far and away EV leader with Tesla’s market capitalization now at $800 billion compared to GM’s relatively paltry $61 billion. To be fair, Tesla has other growing product lines like solar roofing that GM does not. (On the other hand, Tesla doesn’t currently offer an SUV or any kind of heavy-duty truck.) Tesla is way out in front as the leading EV brand and shows no signs of slowing down. Interestingly, Tesla hardly mentions that their cars are electric or good for the environment. They take these as givens and focus on safety, style, and technology as their core brand messages.
All of which means GM has its work cut out to start building a new brand based on a rapidly expanding EV product line. They have promised a major marketing campaign to introduce this new concept, and it will no doubt be unavoidable. But GM had better stock up on fresh batteries, because it’s going to be a long trip to get within even shouting distance of Tesla and perhaps other EV brands as well, with or without a new logo.