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GM will only sell zero-emission vehicles by 2035

The steering wheel and dashboard of a General Motors Co. Buick Velite 6 electric vehicle is seen at the company's dealership in Shanghai, China, on Thursday, July 18, 2019. Gilles Sabrie/Bloomberg

The days of the internal combustion engine are numbered.

General Motors said Thursday it would phase out petroleum-powered cars and trucks and sell only vehicles that have zero tailpipe emissions by 2035, a seismic shift by one of the world’s largest automakers that makes billions of dollars today from gas-guzzling pickup trucks and SUVs.

The announcement could put pressure on automakers around the world to make similar commitments. It could also embolden President Joe Biden and other elected officials to push for even more aggressive policies to fight climate change. Leaders could point to GM’s decision as evidence that even big businesses have decided that it is time for the world to begin to transition away from fossil fuels that have powered the global economy for more than a century.


Several other automakers, most of them European, have previously pledged more modest steps in the direction that GM says it is headed. Daimler, which makes Mercedes-Benz cars, has said that it would have an electric or hybrid version of each of its models by 2022, and Volkswagen has promised an electric version for each of its models by 2030.

Electric cars represent the fastest-growing segment of the auto industry, but they still make up a small proportion of new car sales: about 3% of the global total, according to the International Energy Agency. Sales of such cars jumped last year in Europe and China, but they remain niche products in the United States. They are bought primarily by affluent early adopters who are drawn to the luxury models made by Tesla, which dominates the business, and by environmentally conscious consumers.


GM said that its decision to switch to electric cars was part of a broader plan to become carbon neutral by 2040. Its announcement came a day after Biden signed an executive order to step up the fight against climate change, including a directive for the federal government to electrify its large vehicle fleet.

“General Motors is joining governments and companies around the globe working to establish a safer, greener and better world,” Mary T. Barra, GM’s chair and CEO, 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.”


GM said it would increase the use of renewable energy, and would eliminate or offset emissions from its factories, buildings, vehicles and other sources.

The company plans to spend $27 billion over the next five years to introduce 30 electric vehicles, including an electric Hummer pickup truck that it expects to start delivering to customers later this year.

GM stock jumped after its announcement and was up more than 4% around 2 p.m., reflecting a growing consensus among investors that electric cars represent the future and that Tesla and other electric carmakers will eventually dominate the auto industry, while businesses that do not make the transition to electrics will do poorly.


The company said it was working with the Environmental Defense Fund to build charging stations for electric cars and to persuade drivers to switch to electric cars.

“EDF and GM have had some important differences in the past, but this is a new day in America — one where serious collaboration to achieve transportation electrification, science-based climate progress and equitably shared economic opportunity can move our nation forward,” the president of the group, Fred Krupp, said in a statement.

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