March 7, 2018 / 10:08 PM / 15 days ago

UPDATE 1-GM plans to expand Bolt EV output, asks Congress to help

(Adds GM spokesman comment, background)

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON, March 7 (Reuters) - General Motors Co Chief Executive Mary Barra called on the U.S. Congress on Wednesday to expand a consumer tax credit for electric vehicles as the automaker said it would boost production of its EV Chevrolet Bolt in response to strong demand.

Barra also called on U.S. regulators to take into account when scoring automakers’ emissions the potential for autonomous ridesharing vehicles to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and petroleum consumption. The Trump administration is reviewing whether Obama administration emissions standards that called for roughly doubling average U.S. vehicle fuel efficiency by 2025 are appropriate.

“We feel tax credits should be expanded so our customers continue to receive the benefit going forward,” Barra told an energy conference in Houston. “We believe in an all-electric future.”

GM has sold more than 160,000 plug-in and full-electric vehicles eligible for the credit. The $7,500 consumer tax credit phases out over a 12-month-period soon after an automaker hits the 200,000 mark and the largest U.S. automaker is expected to hit the mark later this year. The tax credit is aimed at helping defray the cost of pricier electric vehicles.

Introduced in October 2016, the Bolt was the first mass-produced electric vehicle to go more than 200 miles (320 km) between charges, and sell at a sticker price of under $40,000.

Electrically powered vehicles account for a just a fraction of GM’s overall sales. In 2017, an analyst estimated GM loses $7,400 on every Bolt it sells. GM does not disclose individual vehicle profitability, company spokesman Pat Morrissey said by phone.

GM sold about 26,000 Bolt EVs worldwide last year, mostly in the United States. The company declined to say how much it would hike production when it adds production later this year at an assembly plant north of Detroit.

Tesla Inc said last month it expected to reach the 200,000 figure later this year.

Congress opted not to kill the tax credit as part of a tax overhaul passed in December, but did not act on a proposal that would have lifted the cap entirely but then sunset the credit in a few years.

GM said in October it planned to launch 20 new electric vehicles by 2023, but did not provide more specifics. Automakers around the world are investing tens of billions collectively to electrify vehicles.

Automakers want the Trump administration to revise the 2022 through 2025 fuel efficiency standards. The administration must determine by April 1 whether the standards are appropriate, and regulators are expected to declare they are not.

Administration officials are considering proposing a significant reduction in the requirements, according to automakers and government officials.

“We also feel the regulations need to comprehend new developments in the industry – like the move away from one owner, one vehicle – that have taken place since the rule was finalized in 2012,” Barra said. “Current standards did not comprehend increased shared and autonomous electric vehicles.”

GM’s “commitment to an all-electric, zero-emissions future is unwavering, regardless of any modifications to future fuel economy standards,” she added. (Reporting by David Shepardson Editing by Frances Kerry and Richard Chang)

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