Cadillac Walks Back EV Commitment, Will Sell Gas Cars Past 2030

By 13 Min Read

Automakers say they’ve been racing toward an all-electric future. We’ve heard it for years now, and investors have bet big on the idea that it’s going to happen. But in recent months, sales haven’t accelerated to the level they expected, and now some seem to be rethinking the boldest commitments they’ve ever made. Are we seeing the start of the EV promise walk-back era? 

Welcome back to Critical Materials, your daily roundup for all things EV and automotive tech. Today, we’re talking about Cadillac’s now-uncertain commitment to EVs, Fisker’s flaky future, and AM radio (apparently) still zapping EV range. Let’s jump in.

30%: Cadillac Walks Back 2030 EV Pledge

Just this past week, General Motors CEO Mary Barra gave an interview to Bloomberg where she doubled down on the commitment to going all-electric and even said “If I had a do-over… I would have accelerated the pace” of their EV rollout. 

But that’s not quite the same story being told this week at GM’s luxury division. At an event in Detroit, Cadillac executives seem to be backing down from a promise to transition the brand to an all-EV marque by 2030.

The brand’s current global vice president, John Roth, said that Cadillac is listening to its customer needs, which, like the rest of the industry, appear to indicate less immediate enthusiasm for EVs compared to what OEMs originally projected. That’s a bit surprising to hear from Cadillac, given how the electric Lyriq has been a critical and consumer hit and now makes up a respectable portion of the brand’s overall sales. 

Now, the brand has clarified that Cadillac vehicles with combustion engines will coexist “for a number of years,” in order to give the customer “the luxury of choice.” Here’s what Roth had to say at a media event this week, according to The Detroit Free Press:

EVs and ICE (internal combustion engine), we want to be clear, will coexist for a number of years. We want to make sure that we have that luxury of choice in the marketplace and both will have an opportunity to meet the customer needs as we look forward.

In 2019, then-president Steve Carlisle dubbed 2030 the “end of the ICE age for Cadillac.” His words were echoed by committing the luxury arm of GM to exit this decade as an all-electric brand.

“None of us knows how long this transition will take. We will be there with internal combustion engines, as well as electric,” Carlisle said at the time. “But the majority, if not all, Cadillacs will be electric by 2030.”

It’s not just Carlisle that pushed this envelope, either. In 2021, Rory Harvey, the brand’s then-global-vice-president (and now president of Cadillac), echoed Carlisle’s commitment to an all-electric future: “We will be leaving this decade as an EV brand,” Harvey said. “As things stand today, which means that we will not be selling ICE vehicles by 2030.”

But that appears to no longer be the case—or, at least it’s muddied in a world of sales uncertainty.

“We are always listening to the customer,” said Roth earlier this week, clarifying Harvey’s 2021 comments committing to an all-electric future by 2030. “We are still on strategy of offering an all-EV portfolio by the end of the decade and we’re going to listen to the customer and let them be our guide. That’s our answer.”

60%: Fisker’s Future Feels Funky, Warns Of Job Cuts

Fisker Ocean

Meanwhile, EV startup Fisker’s ship has been veering off course for months. From a bad review from YouTube’s most prolific tech personalities, to warnings (and finally an official confirmation) that it only had “weeks” of cash-on-hand remaining, the EV startup’s fate is starting to smell a lot like the original Fisker brand. Now, a new email obtained by Business Insider indicates that the new Fisker may soon need to cut jobs to keep its head above water.

Sent by John DiDonato, the company’s new chief restructuring officer, the memo warned employees that they could be out of a job effective June 28th should the automaker not be able to about-face its financial trajectory by that time. At least three employees indicated that “everyone they had spoken to at Fisker” had received the notice.

The email obtained by Business Insider reads as follows:

As you know, Fisker Group Inc. (the “Company” or “Fisker”) has previously communicated that it will provide updates on significant developments that may impact Fisker’s workforce.

Over the past few months, Fisker’s leadership team has been pursuing all avenues to preserve the future of the business and its path forward. Fisker is diligently pursuing all options to address our operating cash requirements, including maintaining discussions with prospective buyers and investors and exploring various restructuring alternatives.

There is a possibility, however, that these efforts will not be successful. Should this possibility materialize, the Company has an obligation to provide “conditional notice” that employees—including yourself—will be terminated on June 28, 2024.

If the Company must terminate your employment in the future, the job loss will be permanent and the facility will be closed. The Company has no policy creating transfer, bumping, or reassignment rights for employees laid off from the business. If needed, we will provide you with additional separation information, including information regarding unemployment, COBRA benefits, and severance pay.

This notification does not mean the Company is shutting down or ceasing operations, and receiving this conditional notice does not necessarily mean you will be let go.

Fisker is operating under challenging circumstances and we are making every effort to work towards an outcome that facilitates new investment or other strategic solutions. We appreciate your dedication and support for one another during this challenging time. Thank you for your hard work and contributions to Fisker.

Along with the potential job cuts comes a warning that Fisker’s “facility will be closed.” Likely, this notice comes as a 60-day compliance requirement as part of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act. At this time, a WARN notice has not been processed in California where Fisker is headquartered.

Meanwhile, news of Fisker’s potential demise has been compounded by reports that it has been cannibalizing parts from pre-production cars sitting in the automaker’s “graveyard” in La Palma, California. Eight current and former Fisker employees verified the practice to Business Insider, noting that that practice was performed “in 10 to 15% of fixes over the past few months” in order to satisfy repair requirements for current customers in a timely manner.

“It only happens if there’s a dire need for the part,” said one Fisker worker. “Technicians are just doing this to help customers. Customers are basically begging for parts, and the mentality is: If we have parts available, let’s use them.”

A Fisker spokesperson denied the allegation.

90%: Lobbyists Warn That AM Radio Will Zap EV Range

Honda Prologye Infotainment

In case you missed it, there’s a rather controversial bill floating around which would require National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to mandate that all new vehicles to be fit with AM radio.

About 82 million people still listen to AM radio. I’ll admit that’s a lot more than I anticipated, especially as someone who can’t live without Spotify and binging episodes of Darknet Diaries. Even so, automakers have been dropping support for AM radio in their new cars.

Specifically, eight manufacturers—BMW, Ford, Mazda, Polestar, Rivian, Tesla, Volkswagen, and Volvo—have told a Senate committee that they would stop offering AM radio in their new vehicles.

One of the biggest reasons that automakers are quitting AM is due to the changeover to EVs. The electromagnetic interference generated by electric motors could result in poor quality audio, and rather than risk complaints and field fixes for customers, automakers are dropping support across the board (including in non-EVs).

Lawmakers argue that this change undermines the effectiveness of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) emergency alert system. Meanwhile, the Consumer Technology Association says that only 1% of the 800 Americans surveyed about the emergency alert system received the notification over AM radio, whereas 92% say they received it on their smartphone.

Albert Gore III, executive director of clean vehicle advocacy group Zero Emission Transportation Association, said in a statement that mandating AM radio would not only impact EV cost but would also impact range and efficiency:

Requiring the installation of analog AM radios in automobiles is an unnecessary action that would impact EV range, efficiency and affordability at a critical moment of accelerating adoption. Mandating AM radio would do little to expand drivers’ ability to receive emergency alerts. At a time when we are more connected than ever, we encourage Congress to allow manufacturers to innovate and produce designs that meet consumer preference, rather than pushing a specific communications technology.

While a small component would undoubtedly require some additional hardware cost, it’s hard-pressed to believe that implementing AM radio alone would meaningfully impact EV range.

If the bill passes, automakers will likely have no choice but to re-instate AM radio in their future vehicles, both gas and battery-powered. Whether or not some over-engineering will be necessary to tame the interference from the electric motors is unknown.

100%: Would You Risk It For the Fisker?

Fisker Ocean service lead image

We’ve talked about this one before, but now that the Fisker dust has settled a bit, it’s worth bringing this up again.

You can get a Fisker Ocean for cheap. I’m talking cheap, cheap. $24,999 cheap. It’s pretty much a bargain for that cost, at least from the outside—if that model actually exists, that is.

Even with glaring service issues, limited parts availability, and an unknown future, people are still putting their trust into Fisker and taking deliveries of new cars (albeit with warnings like, “good luck” and “welcome to hell”).

So that brings me to our question of the day: Would you risk it all for a Fisker when the company could cease operations in just two short months? Let me know in the comments.

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