- GM recently said that much of its vehicle fleet would go all-electric by 2030.
- The automaker allied with the Environmental Defense Fund on the move.
- It was a notable moment of cooperation between Big Auto and the environmental movement.
- Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.
Last month, General Motors stunned the auto industry when it announced it would eliminate tailpipe emissions from much of its vehicle fleet by 2035.
When it revealed the news, GM said it had worked closely with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). The 54-year-old non-profit would, to many, have seemed a surprising ally for the number one US carmaker by sales — but that was before GM decided to invest $27 billion in its electrified transformation.
“General Motors is joining governments and companies around the globe working to establish a safer, greener and better world,” GM CEO Mary Barra said in a statement. “We encourage others to follow suit and make a significant impact on our industry and on the economy as a whole.”
The EDF was enthusiastic about GM’s announcement.
“It’s a big deal,” the organization’s president, Fred Krupp, told Insider.
“It’s a big change,” he added, noting that GM and EDF were opponents in a 2020 debate over whether automakers should follow California’s strict fuel-economy regulations.
Some followed those rules, including GM’s crosstown Detroit rival of more than a century, Ford. But GM chose to side with the Trump administration’s effort to reverse California’s longstanding waiver to set its own standards under the Clean Air Act of 1970. The administration cited the need to have a single national mandate.
“GM changed its position on that,” Krupp said, recalling that the company withdrew from litigation on the matter after Joe Biden defeated Trump last November in the presidential election.
Krupp already knew that GM was committing to a reinvention.
“I’ve been having conversations with Mary Barra for the last four or five years, working toward a shared vision of an all-electric future,” he said. “We’re proud to have been part of that. And Mary sees this as good for business. It’s the future to bet on.”
GM is betting big, building a new battery factory with South Korea’s LG in Ohio, revamping plants in the US to make electric cars and trucks, and rolling out 30 new all-electric vehicles by 2050. It has also boosted investment to $27 billion from a pre-COVID pandemic $20 billion, the company said.
When asked if it was odd to be allying with a company that, in its championing of internal combustion since the early 20th century, has contributed greatly to greenhouse emissions, Krupp said GM’s actions were simply an example of what leaders do.
“We all know how hard it is to turn a big battleship around,” he said. “But it’s not only in the interest of the world and the environment for GM to transform, it’s also clearly in the interest of GM.”
Ultimately, Krupp seemed delighted to be working shoulder-to-shoulder with the biggest company in Big Auto. But he also said that the demand is obviously coming on strong, with customers and governments worldwide cheering for EVs.
“It’s a breakthrough moment,” he said. “I’m confident that GM sees the future as electric and wants to prosper in that future.”