During COVID there have been many interesting things to observe, about how different people, groups and companies have reacted to the current situation and to how that could affect what comes after we get out of these hard days. Many of us have made educated guesses about what a post-COVID world will look like, what changes some communities and businesses will make and where they decide to try to put their focuses going forward.
One of the biggest industries that many are looking at is the automotive sector. Between the changes in peoples buying habits, the increased pushed to fight climate change and the proliferation of new technology coming online, this sector is one where the changes of a post-COVID world could be profound. Some people have believed that one of the effects of COVID would be to speed up some changes, either in company strategies or consumer habits. So it was with that in mind that I really took note of a big Super Bowl ad that came out from one of the world’s behemoths in the auto sector, an ad that really speaks to what a post-COVID world might look like:
Now it’s not a shock to see a large company like GM investing in electric cars, as they have been doing that for a while. They have been shifting in that direction and they have clearly seen that as a part of the future. But what is striking here is the speed at which GM now seems to be going. The ad makes it clear, 30 new models available as an EV by 2025. In four years. In the world of auto production, that’s literally right around the corner.
But like with most things in the United States, this move by such a corporate stalwart like General Motors will be taken as something more than simply good economics. Some will apply their political perspectives onto it, trying to make it somehow “un-American” to want to buy an electric vehicle. That’s part of the reason why I love this ad from GM, because it not only highlights this future of transportation, but it basically tries to turn that “un-American” argument onto its head. It tries to spark that outrage that “these guys over here” are beating us at this, a nation that most Americans would say shouldn’t beat them at anything. And honestly, using Will Ferrell to do it is a great way of doing it. Who better that Ricky Bobby to help GM make that leap?
But while that’s pretty good, being social media, I love when someone decides to clap back at a funny slight against them. And given that Ferrell and GM have decided to call out Norway here, it was going to fall to someone in Norway to speak up. Well the University of Agder in Grimstad and Kristiansand, Norway decided to step up, responding by showing a few more areas where the United States is lagging behind those “lugers”, as Ferrell put it:
First off, a beautiful chef kiss to that video reply. Love it, LOVE IT!!! But what I probably love the most about it is the fact that it’s not so much a put down of the United States (and to an extent, us here in Canada too) as pointing to what the US could do better when it comes to the energy transition that GM clearly is betting on coming sooner than later. When you look at all of the things that this Norwegian university showed about their approach, from investments in green energy tech, to battery storage, to free tuition, maternity leave and more, I guarantee that the question most Americans would ask could be “how is it all paid for?”.
Of course in Norway, a lot of that money is coming from the wealth raised from past oil extraction over the decades. Yes, they’ve used the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund and the billions it has raised over the years to re-invest in their country, their people, their social welfare, their education and their industry to make them world leaders. That’s what they’ve done with similar oil resources that both the United States and Canada have, so it could have been done here too. But instead of “shoulda, coulda”-ing this to death, I would just say that using the revenues from a non-renewable natural resource to build up future industries and society is something that they have done since their inception. So really, you could argue that being more like the Norwegians would be a very “American” thing to do.
Anyway, we’ll see if they ever do see it that way, but it’s still interesting none the less to see such a large American corporation take this leap in what is clearly a sped-up way. Time will tell if they are getting to the front of the line or will be making a big mistake in this big bet. But this time, it feels much more like former and if they don’t get cold feet this time like they did in the 90’s, GM could be reading the mood of this moment better than most.