GM trolls Tesla, changing approach with new “super truck”

PHOENIX – GMC Hummer’s new electric pickup is different for General Motors and not just because it’s not gasoline like its ancestors. According to those who worked on it, this represents a major shift for the historically conservative Detroit automaker in both form and function.

The “high-yield” car is the flagship of GM Ultium EV’s new technology and is a new benchmark for the Detroit automaker in terms of development time. Inside the car there are other notable features that, according to insiders, are evidence that GM is changing as a company to better compete with Tesla and new EV startups.

Such features include a thin point in Cybertruck with a long Tesla delay, a button that currently does nothing, and a “Watts to Freedom” mode, or WTF, that launches a massive car at 0-60 mph in about three seconds. This is comparable to the Chevy Corvette and slightly slower than some Tesla models with performance that can reach speeds in less than three seconds.

“Hopefully there’s a lot of weirdness in this car because it’s all intentional,” said Aaron Pfau, Hummer’s lead engineer during the media event. “It will change your concept of not only what EV can do, but also what GM can do in general.”

Pfau and other members of the Hummer EV team have managed through infamous company lawyers and extensive bureaucracy to provide quick solutions and unique opportunities for the car that GM has never done. They did it in a record 26 months. This is about half the time of a regular car program.

The overall mission, internally referred to as the “moon shot” in honor of NASA’s first Apollo 11 landing, was to quickly create a “fun” vehicle that would draw attention to the company and its new EVs, which are expected , will scale to 30 models worldwide by 2025.

“The whole purpose of this vehicle was to make people get excited and think about EVs that won’t necessarily be excited, and think about EVs,” Pfau said. “We’re pulling everything, all the frills, into this one vehicle. It’s a bit of a car halo, isn’t it?”


The Hummer team has largely gained the will to build a vehicle based on the idea of ​​building an “open truck” in the open air, performance and off-road vehicle. In essence, the upgrade of the Hummer brand, which absorbs gas, to create a bold EV to showcase the best that the company has to offer.

“We gave the developers and the chief engineer a chance, and we said,‘ Hey, let’s go, ’” Duncan Aldred, GMC world leader, said in an interview. “I think people have had a lot of fun with it, and I think it’s an encapsulation of this vehicle.”

Using “WTF,” an acronym commonly associated with the vulgar term of disbelief, senior members of the Hummer team, backed by GM executives to do otherwise, received approval after a battle with automakers ’lawyers.

“It’s such an interesting experience and we want to break the rules,” Pfau said. “We don’t want you to still believe that we are this old, stuffy, outdated company. We really were in this program as a startup, internal to GM, and it cleared that path for us. ”

Others, such as exterior designer Brian Malczewski and car dynamics engineer Drew Mitchell, shared similar feelings about the program. Oldred paid tribute to Bar and GM President Mark Royce for giving the team such freedom to act within reasonable limits.

“That doesn’t mean we want to do something irresponsible,” Aldred said. “But obviously we are in an environment where we have to offer what customers want, and that will excite them. Fair enough, Tesla, they’ve done a great job with all of this.”

Some Tesla features have caused controversy. In particular, permission for drivers to play video games while driving has been revoked, and concerns about its driver assistance systems being offered to consumers during testing or not properly tracking driver awareness.

Aldred said GM has a history of safely deploying such features, citing third-party praise for its Super Cruise driver assistance system, which is available on Hummer.

The Hummer also has four-wheel control, which allows it to perform extremely steep turns and offers a “crab mode” that allows the vehicle to move diagonally. The current model offered offers 1,000 horsepower, 1,200 foot-pounds of engine torque and 11,500 foot-pounds of wheel torque.

However, like the original GM Hummer cars of the 1990s and 2000s, this feature is worth the price. Although it does not emit gas, it consumes a lot of energy and weighs over 9,000 pounds. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, that weight is about 4,000 pounds heavier than the heaviest Chevrolet Silverado 1,500 pickup and more than twice the average new car.

The car and driver report that the Hummer EV pickup has a rating of 47 MPGe, which is equivalent to the range of electric cars for miles per gallon. That’s about 33% less than competitors, including the smaller Rivian R1T pickup and Ford Motor’s future F-150 Lightning. GM declined to confirm MPGe.

The Hummer Edition 1, currently manufactured at the Detroit plant, has a power reserve of 329 miles, which exceeds Rivian and Ford’s electric pickups. Each of the automakers, as well as Tesla, said that variants of their pickups with a longer range will be available later.

Easter eggs

Other hidden or weird features of the car, also known as “Easter Eggs”, range from moon-inspired design elements to customizable graphics for digital auxiliary buttons. Additional images include dynamite and skulls, as well as a Hummer EV that rides on a Tesla Cybertruck.

“We had so much fun with this business that you usually can’t do it in your regular car,” Malczewski said.

The Hummer EV has customizable graphics for digital auxiliary buttons. Additional images range from dynamite and skulls to one of the vehicles driving the Tesla Cybertruck.

Michael Wayland / CNBC

The center knob also has a button that currently does nothing. When pressed, it says, “Your mode. Your mission.” GM wants owners to submit their own ideas for a feature for the button that will then be added via a remote OTA update or over the air.

The button, a small “H,” surrounded by three triangular markings, could be used for additional off-road or performance modes or other functions for cars, Pfau said.

“We demand all the feedback right now to say, ‘Hey, what things do you want?'” He said.

Such hidden features and remote updates are fairly new to traditional automakers such as GM, but have been a staple for Tesla, the industry leader in electric vehicles. Barra said that by 2025 GM will be the leader in sales of electric cars in the United States.

On the center knob is a button that reads: “Your mode. Your mission.”. GM wants owners to submit their own ideas for a feature for the button that will then be added via a remote update.

Michael Wayland / CNBC

It looks profitable

Since the presentation of the Hummer EV pickup in October 2020, GM has received more than 65,000 bookings for the truck, as well as for the upcoming version of the SUV.

According to Aldred, 80 percent of booking owners have ordered the most expensive car models.

“We had a goal, we had a business case, we win that,” he said, declining to compare profitability with traditional internal combustion models. “We were very, very profitable on these cars, even if, for example, 40 or 50% of the top of the line.”

GM has promised investors that its next-generation cars, starting with the Hummer, will be profitable. Limited edition for the Hummer Edition 1 with a price of $ 110,295. Then there will be other, cheaper versions – from starting prices of about $ 80,000 to $ 100,000.

Production is set to begin at the former Detroit-Hamtrack assembly plant less than two years after GM announced a significant $ 2.2 billion investment to completely renovate the plant to create a variety of all-electric trucks and SUVs.

Photo by Jeffrey Soger for General Motors

While the Hummer EV pickup is on sale, new orders are unlikely to be fulfilled until 2024 due to the number of current bookings, Oldred said. The SUV, which GM unveiled last year after the pickup, is not expected until 2023.

“What we’re looking at now is how can we create the maximum number and how can we deliver, make these bookings as quickly as possible?” Said Oldred. “We’re doing all the research on this and we’re sure we can go much faster than we originally thought, but that still means booking now probably means delivery in the 24th.”

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