GM is a conservative company because it's big and established. Their responsibility is to bring profit to their stakeholders now, and provide a path for profit into the future. Because they have a proven method of delivering profit to their stakeholders, the most important thing to them is to protect that. A certain amount of creativity is necessary for them to continue to make the necessary evolutions for future profitability.This is true to an extent, but mostly because GM has not invested sufficiently in their technology to bring prices down enough to make their EVs profitable. Certainly if a company does not invest the initial R&D in any product it will not be desirable. There's a reason why Tesla is able to sell their vehicles at a premium and without the federal subsidy and GM is not. If anything, GM had a huge head start in this area with the EV1 development in the 90's and general manufacturing know-how that Tesla lacked.
Tesla had to break the mould to enter the market, because you can't come in as a newcomer trying to play everyone else's game better than them. The last major US auto manufacturer to be successful was maybe Chrysler 100 years ago. The liberal mindset was necessary here, to challenge the status quo and try new things. You've got to create a new game if you can't beat someone at theirs. Some of that backfired. Traditional (conservative) manufacturing processes have been finely tuned by the industry. Elon had "production ****" because too many new things were being tried.
It's still not clear that Tesla will be a successful auto manufacturing company. Musk himself said the probable outcome was failure, but if something is important enough, you've got to try.
I've always wondered why hybrid tech was developed first on the vehicles that stand the least to benefit from them. The Insight was basically the first US hybrid, and besides having terrible acceleration without the electric motor, it can get just about the same fuel economy in ICE only mode. Large trucks and SUVs were the logical place to start because the extra cost can be recovered more quickly in fuel savings.GM missed a huge opportunity with the Voltec drivetrain, which was groundbreaking when it hit the market in 2010 and still is the best plug-in hybrid technology available. Most of the Voltec technology was housed in a unique transaxle, including the clutches and electric motors. This means that the packaging would have easily been adapted to fit GM's many other FWD platforms, including their small SUVs and crossovers. The margins in these segments is much higher and probably would have allowed them to post a profit.
(In addition - at risk of going on a tangent - the Volt was positioned as a Prius and Insight competitor in a fairly crowded field. There was no plug-in hybrid SUVs or EV SUVs in 2010, and there basically still aren't even today outside of a few luxury makes. Had a Voltec-powered Equinox or Traverse been developed, It would have owned this segment simply because there would have been no competition.)
To that end, I would have liked to see what GM could do with Voltec. Toyota is putting a 16 kWh battery in their new RAV4 Prime. Their cost to manufacture that battery might be $2,500 and the federal government allows a tax credit of $7,500. That's an extra $5k of value on the table they can build into the vehicle at essentially taxpayer expense. In my view, all the traditional companies missed an opportunity to spend their credits on plug-ins that just barely qualified for the full credit amount.
Now that GM has no credits remaining, the already poorly selling Volt will become that much less desirable from a financial perspective. They made the wise decision to shelve that technology until it's needed. They didn't lose Voltec, they still have it, only the tech doesn't make financial sense for them at the moment. When they see a pathway to profitability, they'll blow the dust off and start producing vehicles consumers want.
The intention was never to have a top selling EV. Their battery and other parts orders were forecast well before the vehicle entered production, and they only had to make it desirable enough to sell the quantity they intended. They probably met most of their expectations with the Bolt.They are losing money on the Bolt because, simply, it looks cheap. It's packaged and styled like a econobox B-class subcompact for no reason whatsoever. It's very close to the specs that I want in an EV but it's just too ugly to consider. I think it's obvious it would have sold many times better as either a "regular" hatchback (Volkswagen Golf) or a crossover vehicle (Equinox).
As I said, signaling interest is the primary benefit of purchasing an EV, not the only interest. Economies of scale are important too, but profitability is a problem you solve after determining sufficient market interest in a product. GM doesn't need the Bolt to be profitable, not at the moment anyhow.
GM is well positioned to lead an EV boom when it happens. They've already developed so much of the technology necessary. Now it's a matter of batteries getting better, and dumping money into R&D is no guarantee of solving that problem. After all, they aren't a chemicals company, they are an automotive manufacturing company. It's not their forte.