Sustainability

10 numbers prove that General Motors is serious about sustainability

General Motors is moving forward with a global sustainability plan.

Photo by Paula Daniëlse/Getty Images

The annual General Motors sustainability report is out. It focuses on the successes of 2019 as well as the path forward. GM, the parent company of the Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, Cruise, and Cadillac brands, among others, has been very public with its push toward sustainability in recent years. New numbers released by the company prove that the efforts are paying off.

2.2

General Motors has invested $2.2 billion into its Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant. Built on the site of the original Dodge factory, the plant was producing the Cadillac CT6, Chevrolet Volt, Buick LaCrosse, and Chevrolet Impala. In May 2020, the plant began retooling to become GM's first planet dedicated exclusively to electric vehicles. In the future, the company plans to make the Cruise Origin, GMC Hummer EV, and Cadillac Escalade EV there. Once retooling is complete, the plant will support 2,200 jobs.

5

For five consecutive years, General Motors has been the only automaker on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) for North America. That index is comprised of sustainability leaders, as identified by RobecoSAM, a specialist in sustainability investing, that includes invited members who are then ranked and divided into submarkets and by region. 2019 marked the first time that GM had been named to the DJSI World Index, which is comprised of the leaders from a variety of regions.

DJSI represents the top 20 percent of the largest 600 North American companies inn the S&P Global BMI based on long-term economic, environmental and social criteria.

9

General Motors has been named a U.S. EPA Energy Star Partner of the Year -Sustained Excellence in Energy Management making it nine years that it earned this honor. In its annual announcement of Energy Star Partners of the Year in April, 191 companies garnered awards. According to the EPA, "in 2018 alone, Energy Star and its partners helped Americans avoid nearly $35 billion in energy costs."

20

General Motors has committed $20 billion in capital and engineering resources toward the development of electric and autonomous vehicle programs between 2020 and 2025. A major step in that direction was the debut of the Ultium battery and new flexible vehicle architecture earlier this year, which has already resulted in a partnership with Honda.

46

Part of sustainability is not having vehicles or parts go to junk yards. A way to quell this is to fie tune safety technology, which is inherently designed to prevent crashes. General Motors vehicles that are equipped with Automatic Emergency Braking (or Forward Automatic Braking) with Forward Collision Alert saw a 46 percent reduction in rear-end crashes according to a study conducted in partnership with the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.

The technology was first applied to a vehicle in 2004. In 2016, the company committed to making forward collision alert and automatic emergency braking standard on virtually all new light vehicles by 2022.

50

By 2030, 50 percent of the parts used in General Motors vehicles will be made with sustainable materials. This is the result of a partnership between GM and its suppliers. Ford has also taken strides to make more sustainable parts, including using recycled coffee beans from McDonalds to create car parts.

70

GM's new Ultium battery is made from nickel-manganese-cobalt-aluminum chemistry. This results in a reduction in the use of combalt by 70 percent. Cobalt mining is an extremely dirty process that frequently uses child labor. The chemistry has been developed in partnership with LC Chem, but is proprietary for GM.

100

By 2030, 100 percent of all GM-owned facilities in the U.S. will be powered by renewable energy. This includes the company's Spring Hill, Tennessee plant, which is slated to be run exclusively on solar power by 2022. GM aims to have their global facilities follow suit by 2040.

100

For the third consecutive year, GM has made 3BL Media's 100 Best Corporate Citizens list. The list recognizes outstanding environmental, social and governance transparency and performance among the 1,000 largest U.S. public companies. 3BL Media has represented some of the largest companies on the planet including Morgan Stanley, General Mills, UPS, Pepsico, GM, and CVS Health.

500

GM was included on the S&P 500 ESG Index this year. It was launched in 2019 and recognizes strong performance in environmental, social and governance factors.

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

Chevrolet completely redesigned the Suburban for the 2021 model year.

Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

At over 18-feet long, the 2021 Chevrolet Suburban is massive in stature. The redesigned-for-2021 Suburban is also one of the most technologically advanced SUVs to roll off any General Motors assembly line. The question is, is it any good?

Yes. There is no point in burying the lede on this. The Suburban is the Chevrolet to have if you consistently need to carry six or more people and all of the gear associated with it. Need to take the kids to soccer practice? No problem. Need to bring grandma and grandpa on the family road trip? No problem. Need to carry an entire high school marching band and their instruments? Easy peasy. A colleague even suggested that the rear seats are in a different ZIP code than the front seats.

2021 Chevrolet Suburban Premier The Suburban has grown for the 2021 model year.Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

But unlike Doctor Who's Tardis, the Suburban is just as big on the outside as it is on the inside. The Suburban's boxy shape highlights how functional the design is – maximizing interior space is key. A new front grille and headlight setup comes straight from the Chevy Silverado pickup truck. Massive wheels are needed just to fill out the wheel arches.

Around back, a power liftgate (standard as hands-free in LT and up trim levels) is flanked by new taillights and there's a real dual exhaust for the 5.3-liter V8 that comes standard on Suburban. A 6.2-liter V8 and a 3.0-liter Duramax diesel are also available. All the engine options are paired with GM's 10-speed automatic transmission.

While the Suburban never feels smaller than it is, it is nice to drive. The automatic's shifts are flawless in execution, and the 5.3-liter V8 sounds great on throttle. At nearly three tons, the Suburban isn't light, and the upgraded 6.2-liter V8 is worth the extra money if you're planning on towing or filling the Suburban with people consistently. There just doesn't feel like enough oomph with the lower-spec engine to really get the Suburban moving. The sweet spot might end up being the diesel, like it is with the Silverado, but that's not available for a few months.

2021 Chevrolet Suburban Premier The Suburban is appropriately appointed for its price point.Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

Magnetic Ride Control is standard on the Premier trim, and while it doesn't also include the air suspension of higher-spec models, it does a good job at smoothing out the bumps and imperfections of the road. Though the Suburban does feature a sport driving mode, at no point did I feel compelled to use it to get a leg up on the traffic around me during testing. Leave it to its natural devices the Suburban drives pretty well.

The Expedition drives a bit smaller than it actually is, and the available Pro Trailer Backup Assist is a godsend for someone inexperienced with towing. Depending on spec, you can tow up to 8,300 pounds with the Suburban. That's enough for a small boat or camper, making the SUV a solid rig for weekend getaways.

There's plenty of room in the second row for passengers or pups during a weekend getaway, or longer. The Suburban Premier test unit had captain's chairs in the middle row, so gaining access to the third row is easy. There is also a lever on the side of the second-row chairs that, if you press it down twice, fold ups the seats up and away. While most three-row SUVs skimp in the back, this thing is big enough to seat adults and still have room for lots of cargo (up 19 percent over the 2020 model). In the front, the tester had leather seats that were heated and ventilated that sufficiently performed their functions.

2021 Chevrolet Suburban Premier The Suburban Premier comes standard with a 10.2-inch infotainment touch screen.Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

In front of the driver, an 8.0-inch digital instrument display is flanked by two analog gauges. A 15-inch wide head-up display (the largest in its class) has full-color, high-res graphics that are easy to read. General Motors makes their digital rearview mirror available on the Suburban, which makes it easy to see what's behind you because without it, you see just your passengers or the rows of empty seats directly behind you.

Chevrolet's latest infotainment system runs the Premier model's 10.2-inch touch screen and is updated to include wireless connectivity for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. That means you can just toss your phone on the wireless phone charger and you're off. A surround view camera does help in parking, though you're still going to want to avoid tight spots in city centers due to the overall size of the Suburban.

The test vehicle was black, making it look like a Secret Service transport for the President of the United States. And after a week in the new Suburban, it's easy to see why they prefer this SUV. The way that the Suburban uses its space is impressive. It maximizes interior cargo and passenger capacity. It's more practical in every row than a comparable Ford Expedition Max, and the V8 delivers better power than the Ford's twin-turbo V6.

2021 Chevrolet Suburban Premier The 2021 Suburban has 19 percent more cargo room than the previous edition.Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

You know if you need a vehicle this size, and if you do, the Suburban is the way to go. Just opt for the larger V-8 engine and you'll have yourself a beast of a vehicle. The Premier trim is a nice sweet spot, too, with luxury features but without the opulence and price tag that comes with the High Country trim. The test model wasn't cheap at $74,080, but for big SUVs this is the one to get.

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The Cadillac Escalade is one of the most luxurious SUVs you can buy.

Photo courtesy of Cadillac

Cadillac has given the 2021 Escalade the tagline "Never stop arriving" which seems apropos for a full-size SUV that shows up in nearly every way. Having undergone a complete redesign, the 2021 Cadillac Escalade finds itself securely at the top of the company's lineup showcasing the high-tech features and plush accommodations buyers are looking for.

The three-row SUV is built on the same platform as the Chevrolet Suburban and Tahoe, and the GMC Yukon at the General Motors Arlington Assembly plant outside of Dallas. The platform is ridged and good, allowing the Escalade and its brethren to take on corners at speed without fear of coffee spilling.

2021 Cadillac Escalade Premium Luxury The Escalade continues to have a commanding presence on the street.Photo courtesy of Cadillac

That also means that it's big. Huge, in fact. But, the Escalade isn't so big it's unmanageable. Sure, you'll need a stepladder to see below the hood. But, how many Escalade owners are doing their own maintenance these days? Camera views help tremendously, as does safety technology.

As tested in the Premium Luxury trim, the two-wheel drive Escalade was powered by Cadillac's standard 6.2-liter V8 that's paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission, a fresh addition to GM's offering list. The power plant delivers 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque, just as it is in the SUV's full-size GM stablemates, and has the same SAE-certified horsepower and torque top-out points. It's a competent power plant but it works better in the Yukon Denali.

Why?

That's the big question. The two SUVs are nearly the same weight – pushing 5,800 pounds – and were similarly equipped underneath, as tested. Yet, the Escalade drove like it had a 1,000 pound-boulder strapped into the second row. It didn't feel as agile or swift as the Yukon, but also didn't give the feeling like you're towing when you're not.

2021 Cadillac Escalade Premium Luxury The Escalade's imposing body style is not so large that it proves unmanageable. Photo courtesy of Cadillac

The Escalade was test driven back-to-back-to-back with other vehicles in its segment, the Yukon and the Ford Expedition, and it proved to be, hands down, the least maneuverable. Those poor limousine service drivers in L.A. are not going to enjoy working their way up, and then back down the snaked driveways of the Hollywood elite in this Cadillac.

However, once they get on the road and are able to sit back and relax a touch with their clientele all buckled up, they're going to enjoy the drive. The tester wasn't equipped with GM's Super Cruise, which is a hands-free driver assist technology, but the addition would be a welcome one as the lane keep assist isn't as proactive as other systems from other automakers, and the massive Caddy requires a driver's full attention to stay in the lane.

The 2021 Escalade's massive standard 38-inch OLED screen display area is the highlight of the interior and likely the biggest talking point of the vehicle. Its layout is sensical, proves to not be distracting while driving, and supplies just the right amount of information without going overkill on moving graphics.

2021 Cadillac Escalade Premium Luxury The OLED display darkens to deep black at night, giving your drivers' eyes a rest.Photo courtesy of Cadillac

The best part of the tech, which is actually made up of three separate screens under the same thin housing, is that it quickly and smoothly goes to near-black, giving drivers the least amount of distraction possible while on the road at night. Its resolution is twice the pixel density of a 4K television.

Though a minor issue, the screen's design does not allow for turn signal indicators to be easily seen as they are positioned directly behind the steering wheel rim. With the indicator's generally soft tone, it's easy to miss when an indicator remains on when exiting a roundabout or merging into traffic.

Surrounding the Escalade's screen are a variety of appointments, some of which feel and look luxurious while others do not. These are, however, typical General Motors product quibbles. The synthetic materials on the dashboard, and thin leather door inserts are not as luxe as what you'll find in SUVs made by Cadillac's rivals. Not that anyone will notice them for long with the OLED elephant in the room.

2021 Cadillac Escalade Premium Luxury The layout of the OLED display is easy to understand and read on-the-fly. Photo courtesy of Cadillac

Seats in the Escalade are comfortable, providing ample room. No matter the row, the upholstery is well-executed and the ride is sublime as the suspension easily soaks up the road's imperfections. It's a vehicle the aforementioned elite won't mind being seen in and will look forward to riding in.

Along with its comfortable seats and enough legroom in all three rows for adults, one of the best parts of the Escalade is its sound system. It's the first vehicle with an AKG system (offered with either 19 (standard) or 36 speakers), and it pairs the system with an already-quiet cabin. The sound is all-encompassing for front row occupants and musical elements are separated, coming at you like you're at a concert, rather than listening to a glossed-over recorded session. Turning it up, the quality of the sound is not lost. D-E-lightful.

Individual technology elements of the Escalade are why buyers should choose it over the Yukon and the Lincoln Navigator. The OLED display, Super Cruise, and AKG sound system make the Cadillac a step up from its competition even though its drive feels like a step down.

2021 Cadillac Escalade Premium Luxury Cadillac has made the seats of the Escalade comfortable and appointed them well. Photo courtesy of Cadillac

The Cadillac Escalade is pricey. As tested it was well over $85,000, and that's just a mid-grade model. The Escalade faces stiff competition from the Yukon Denali, which comes in at least $15,000 cheaper and delivers a better drive experience. The similarly priced Navigator is also an elegant option that's sure to be upgraded with Ford's hands-free driving technology in the not-too-distant future.

There may be a sleeper competitor on the horizon. The Jeep Grand Wagoneer is set to debut soon and will likely rival the Escalade with its sound system and elegant design, and come with a similar price tag.

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