Home Business New GM Electric-Truck Business Targets Delivery Market – The Wall Street Journal

New GM Electric-Truck Business Targets Delivery Market – The Wall Street Journal

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GM said FedEx has agreed to purchase 500 of the new electric trucks for delivery later this year.

Photo: GM/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

General Motors Co.
is launching a new electric-truck business geared toward delivery services, the latest in the company’s efforts to commercialize battery technology it is developing in-house.

Following the news, shares of GM hit their highest mark since the stock’s initial public offering in 2010.

The Detroit auto maker said Tuesday it would begin making electric delivery trucks and motorized dollies as part of a division, called BrightDrop, that aims to capitalize on the now-booming market for e-commerce and home delivery.

The new division plans to roll out later this year an electric truck designed specifically for commercial purposes; named the EV600, it will offer a 250-mile range on a single charge. The move pits GM against
Ford Motor Co.
and its recently introduced electric delivery van, as well as electric-vehicle startups such as Rivian Automotive, which is making plug-in vans for Amazon.com Inc.

FedEx Corp.
is expected to be the first customer for the EV600, with the package-delivery company agreeing to purchase 500 of the new electric trucks for delivery later this year, GM said.

BrightDrop also plans to launch in the next few months a new electric dolly—a small four-wheeled dolly for ferrying packages around warehouses and from trucks to front doors.

GM shares gained 6.3% Tuesday to close at $47.82, a record high for the stock since returning to public markets following its 2009 bankruptcy.

Mary Barra,
GM’s chief executive, has pinned her growth strategy on electric cars, earmarking $27 billion to develop plug-in and driverless vehicles by mid-decade. She also wants to add services around electric-vehicle technology, such as BrightDrop and a driverless-car business through its subsidiary, Cruise.

During a video appearance at the CES tech gathering on Tuesday, Ms. Barra said the service aims to help commercial-delivery companies work more efficiently and sustainably, as they contend with surging e-commerce demand and government pressure to create cleaner vehicle fleets.

The BrightDrop-branded trucks will be powered by GM’s new Ultium battery line. The company is building a $2.3 billion battery factory in Ohio with South Korea’s
LG Chem Ltd.
to produce battery cells that GM executives say will gradually bring down the cost of electric vehicles.

GM executives say the market for package delivery should only grow in coming years, citing a forecast by the World Economic Forum that demand for delivery vehicles in large cities could increase 36% by 2030.

GM plans to ratchet up its electric-vehicle offerings this year, starting with a Hummer pickup truck that runs solely on battery power. The company has 30 new plug-in models planned by 2025 and expects 40% of its U.S. lineup to be fully electric by that year.

Other car companies are making a push into the commercial-delivery market with electric offerings that executives say will appeal to business customers.

Delivery trucks and vans typically travel along dedicated routes and usually park in the same place overnight, which makes it easier to figure out where to install charging stations. Electric vehicles also require less maintenance compared with gasoline-powered models, making them advantageous for fleet operators who want to reduce costs, industry executives say.

Ford, under new Chief Executive

Jim Farley,
has also made expanding its commercial business a priority and plans to make electric models like the new plug-in Transit, a model popular with plumbers and other workers, a centerpiece for that effort. The Dearborn, Mich.-based auto maker is expected to release an electric F-150 pickup truck next year that executives say will target fleet buyers. Michigan-based startup Rivian has a contract to build 100,000 electric vans for Amazon by the end of the decade. Amazon is also an investor in Rivian.

BrightDrop is the latest business line to be offered by GM, which is trying to leverage its expertise in software and services into new ventures. Recently, it introduced an insurance business through its OnStar telematics system. GM said BrightDrop will also provide the back-end software services for commercial customers looking to better manage their vehicle fleets.

Write to Ben Foldy at Ben.Foldy@wsj.com and Mike Colias at Mike.Colias@wsj.com

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