After GM sold Opel and Vauxhall to PSA (now Stellantis) in 2017, the U.S. automaker didn’t leave the continent entirely, continuing to sell the Corvette and Cadillac there. And not only that, GM said the same year, not long after the sale closed, that it might not be finished with Europe. In December 2017, CEO Mary Barra told an Automotive Press Association event that “Nothing keeps us from going back to Europe.” The idea at the time, as the Automotive News headline put it, was that “GM could re-enter Europe with self-driving tech or mobility services.” And here we are, the Detroit Free Press reporting Barra’s comment at the Milken Global Conference last week, “[We] we are looking at the growth opportunity that we have now, because we can reenter Europe as an all-EV player. I’m looking forward to that.”
Her comments merely bolstering the public positioning as GM continues its slow burn to familiar territory. Last November, the company installed Mahmoud Samara as the Zurich-based president and managing director of GM Europe. Samara had been Cadillac’s North America head of sales and marketing, helping transition the luxury brand to an all-electric lineup. His mission in Europe is creating a sustainable, profitable “non-traditional mobility startup” for EVs and autonomous vehicles, software, connectivity services, logistics and defense. The region is the third-largest vehicle market in the world, but the second-largest EV market after China. Last year, an EV analyst said 20% of new cars sold in Europe and Britain last year were battery-electric, compared to EVs taking about 3% of the U.S. market.
It’s thought that on the four-wheeled size, as well as making a pitch to European EV buyers with the Lyriq, GM could take its BrightDrop Zevo 600 (pictured) and Zevo 410 electric vans, and BrightDrop EP1 electrified pallet to serve the commercial sector. Going commercial might make the most sense as a starter, fleet operators and delivery companies exhibiting a global appetite for EVs. There’s also the Cruise autonomous vehicle, which could get a great chance to prove itself in compact European city centers.
No matter which way GM reopens its European account, at least one analyst believes it won’t be a … cruise. Joe Phillippi of AutoTrends Consulting told The Detroit Bureau, “[It] will be a dogfight” to contest local makers like VW and Ford, so GM “better be prepared to lose a boatload of money” on the way to profitability.