General Motors’ EV Dilemma: Navigating to Emissions-Free Vehicles

by: Stuart L. Hart

Publication Date: April 3, 2024
Length: 18 pages
Product ID#: 6-603-705

Core Disciplines: Strategy & Management, Sustainability

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Teaching Note

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In 2021, General Motors (GM) announced an ambitious goal to sell only zero-emission cars and light trucks by 2035. This declaration was part of a broader initiative to achieve carbon neutrality by 2040 and was also a highly significant development in the electric vehicle (EV) transition, as no other major traditional automaker had set such a target. Over the next two years, GM invested billions of dollars in retooling, battery, charging, and other EV technologies, securing third place in the EV market as of 2023.

This case delves into the strategic challenges facing GM in September 2023. In the time since it embarked on its aggressive EV transition, consumer demand for EVs had not escalated, competition had grown, and financial risks and technical uncertainties loomed.

Students are challenged to answer this question: Should GM adhere to its EV goal timeline or modify its strategy?

Teaching Objectives

After reading and discussing the material, students should:

  • Evaluate the strategic rationale behind pursuing a potentially disruptive innovation strategy despite uncertain consumer demand and financial risks.
  • Analyze the intensifying competitive environment facing GM in the electric vehicle market.
  • Construct strategic options that could balance GM’s long-term sustainability goals with short-term viability constraints.
  • Assess the financial viability and profitability trade-offs between GM’s electric vehicle goals and fossil-fuel-dependent product lines.