No Way, Norway!

 General Motors goes big on Super Bowl Sunday

General Motors appears to be going all in with its transition to an electric vehicle (EV) fleet. Last week, GM dropped the bombshell announcement that it planned to stop making gas-powered cars, trucks and SUVs by 2035. While not the market force it once was, GM still accounted for 17% U.S. auto market share in 2019, the largest of any manufacturer, so this is a big deal commitment. The company also plans to invest $27 billion in EVs over the next five years. The company’s stock has risen on the announcements.

To make a splash outside of the financial press, GM has also created an ad to run during the first quarter of the Super Bowl starring Will Ferrell. The ad provides a hilarious storyline of Ferrell, Kenan Thompson, and Awkwafina outraged at Norway’s superiority in per capita sales of EVs, charging off across the Atlantic to set things right and establish American dominance. As with all things Ferrell, things don’t go according to plan. You can watch the ad here (full disclosure — I’m a big Ferrell fan dating back to his George W. Bush days).

Why does this matter? Super Bowl ads are big-spend items, and companies often use them to make a branding statement, as Apple did in its iconic “1984” ad. It’s hard to think of a more public way for GM to stake a public position on its view of the future of transportation. Time will tell but, decades from now, Super Bowl Sunday 2021 may well be looked back on as the public inflection point away from the internal combustion engine.

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Jim Salzman

James Salzman is the Donald Bren Distinguished Professor of Environmental Law with joint appointments at the UCLA School of Law and at the Bren School of the Environment …

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