General Motors’ electric car launch was delayed due to slow battery production

General Motors is investing tens of billions of dollars to produce new electric cars, and hopes to catch up with Tesla.

But those ambitious goals seem distant. This year, the company is battling to produce a new electric car battery pack intended for electric vehicles that it plans to introduce over several years.

On Tuesday, GM CEO Mary T. Barra said the delays were “disappointing” and stemmed from the supplier’s inability to offer automated manufacturing machinery.

“We’re working on multiple fronts to put this behind us,” she said on a conference call with analysts.

Many investors are increasingly concerned about the company’s plans because electric vehicles are the fastest-growing segment of the auto industry and the most important part of Ms. Barra’s long-term strategy for General Motors.

The company’s share price fell about 4 percent on Tuesday morning after the conference call.

The big fear for investors is that General Motors, Ford Motor and other large automakers will lose customers as more drivers buy battery-powered cars. In China, Europe and California, where electric vehicles account for a large and growing share of new car sales, dominant automakers such as Volkswagen and Toyota have lost market share to Tesla and Chinese automakers such as BYD.

Two years ago, Ms. Barra said, GM aimed to double annual revenue by 2030, to about $280 billion. A lot of the increased business should come from electric cars, and the new revenue from software and services associated with those cars and trucks. The company has also set a goal of phasing out internal combustion models by 2035.

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For now, GM is “far behind where it needs to be,” said Sam Fiorani, vice president of global vehicle forecasting at AutoForecast Solutions, a consulting firm. “If they’re having trouble with the first wave of these new EVs, if they can’t roll it out, it’s not good for the next wave of larger-volume models.”

In the first half of this year, GM made just 50,000 electric vehicles, and about 80 percent were Chevrolet Bolts that use an old battery pack made by a supplier. In the United States, GM has sold just under 2,800 vehicles that use Ultium’s new modular battery packs, which are made at the Ohio plant the company co-owns with LG Energy Solution. Two more Ultium plants are under construction, in Tennessee and Michigan.

Ms. Barra said GM had been sticking to its earlier forecast that it would build 400,000 electric vehicles in North America from 2022 to 2024, and expected to make 100,000 in the second half of this year. But it didn’t repeat an earlier prediction that the company would earn more than a million in 2025, most of which was supposed to use Ultium technology.

Ultium battery packs are made from Lego-like modules that can be combined into different sizes. By using it in a multitude of vehicles, from compact cars to vans, GM hopes to reap economies of scale and gain a cost advantage over other automakers.

GM has said it will stop making the Bolt, but Ms. Barra said the company now plans to update the car with Ultium technology.

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At present, the slow operation of the electric vehicle does not harm the company’s bottom line. GM said on Tuesday it made a profit of $2.6 billion in the April-June period, up 52 percent from a year earlier. Total revenue was $44.7 billion, up 25 percent.

GM Chief Financial Officer Paul Jacobson said the company has benefited from higher prices and strong sales of trucks and SUVs in North America. The average price of cars GM sold in the second quarter was $52,000 — an increase of $1,600 from the first quarter of the year.

GM sold 833,000 cars and trucks in North America in the second quarter, an increase of 26 percent over the previous year. In the rest of the world, it sold 147,000 vehicles, nearly 8,000 fewer than the previous year.

Mr. Jacobson also said GM now expects to earn $9.3 billion to $10.7 billion this year, up from the previous target of $8.4 billion to $9.9 billion. The company also expects to cut costs by $3 billion by the end of 2024, an increase of $1 billion from previous projections.

The company may struggle to meet its financial targets this year if the union of auto workers goes on strike. The company’s contract with the UAW expires in September, and management and union officials have recently begun negotiating a new deal. The union took a more aggressive stance in the talks under the new president, Sean Fine.

General Motors currently offers a few vehicles that use Ultium batteries. They include the Cadillac Lyric, which is an SUV; GMC Hummer, starting price around $90,000; and large delivery vans made by a new division called BrightDrop.

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In the summer and fall, GM is supposed to add three electric Chevrolets — Blazer and Equinox SUVs and a Silverado electric minivan. The company had previously said the Silverado would go on sale in the spring, but now the truck isn’t expected until the fall.

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