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November 21, 2019 2:30 PM, EST

GM CEO Mary Barra Charges Ahead With Electric Cars but Shuns Hybrids

Mary BarraMary Barra speaks at a past event. (Paul Sancya/Associated Press)

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If General Motors Co. CEO Mary Barra had her way, the auto industry would forget about selling hybrid electric models and instead concentrate on getting more battery-powered vehicles into showrooms.

At an auto industry conference held by Barclays in New York on Nov. 21, Barra said GM is pushing ahead with a plan to sell 20 electric vehicles by 2023 and doesn’t want to build hybrids such as Toyota Motor Co.’s Prius model, which pioneered the category more than 20 years ago in Japan.

“Customers aren’t interested in hybrids,” Barra said.

She has a point. While Tesla Inc.’s electric models have captured the imagination of consumers and are growing in popularity, Prius sales are down 24% through October of this year — although Toyota’s sales of all hybrid models in North America are up 23%.

Hybrids still burn gasoline and are simply an interim step in the shift to fully electric vehicles, Barra said.

There’s a cost to pushing EVs, though. In the early going, selling low-profit electric vehicles will be “margin dilutive,” GM Chief Financial Officer Dhivya Suryadevara told investors at the same conference. Even when GM’s future plug-in models become profitable, they will make less money for the company than conventional gasoline-powered vehicles do now, she said.

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