G.M. and Ford Lay Out Plans to Expand Electric Models
But the upstart automaker Tesla has proved the potential of electric vehicles to generate excitement, with its first mass-market offering, the Model 3 sedan, attracting $1,000 deposits from hundreds of thousands of potential buyers. (It is also showing the challenges of getting the technology to scale, announcing on Monday that it produced only 260 Model 3s in the third quarter, “less than anticipated due to production bottlenecks.”)
More than consumer demand, however, it is regulatory pressure that is revving up the electric push, with officials in China, Europe and the United States ratcheting up emissions standards and setting or discussing deadlines that could eliminate gasoline-powered cars within a generation.
The announcements by G.M. and Ford follow pledges by the German automakers Volkswagen and Daimler to build hundreds of thousands of electric vehicles in the coming years, and the decision by Volvo, the Chinese-owned Swedish luxury brand, to convert its entire lineup to either electric cars or hybrid vehicles that are powered by both batteries and gas.
The accelerated pace of development also reflects the symbiotic relationship between battery-powered cars and another technological frontier; auto companies are tying their electric-car plans to lofty goals of building fleets of autonomous vehicles for ride-hailing services.
The automakers believe they can solve the problem of achieving — as G.M.’s chief executive, Mary T. Barra, has begun stressing — a world with “zero crashes, zero emissions, and zero congestion.”
It is a stunning statement from a company that, together with Ford, sells more large pickup trucks and full-size sport utility vehicles than the rest of the global industry combined — and from an industry that grudgingly got into building electric vehicles in the face of stricter fuel emissions standards.
Just last month, during a visit to China, Ms. Barra cautioned against mandates in which the transition to electric vehicles outpaces consumer demand. “I think it works best when, instead of mandating, customers are choosing the technology that meets their needs,” she said.