GM CEO Mary Barra ‘cautiously optimistic’ on coronavirus recovery, consumer demand

General Motors CEO and Chairman Mary Barra told CNBC on Wednesday she is “cautiously optimistic” about consumer demand returning as well as a global economic recovery as businesses continue to reopen following shutdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic

“We’ve been pleasantly surprised how demand has come back,” she said in a “Squawk Box” interview.

Barra said the company is “hopeful that we’ll have a strong recovery” overall but is planning for multiple scenarios “to make sure the company is strong from a business perspective and can weather any outcome.” 

GM, according to Barra, remains committed to ride-sharing, specifically when it comes to autonomous vehicles. Some have speculated consumers won’t want to utilize ride-sharing such as Uber and Lyft, which the company has a stake in, in the future due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

“Right now you’re seeing people, for the most part, be very cautious in shared environments across many levels,” she said. “I think as we move forward, ride-sharing will be important, and autonomous will be even stronger.”

Cruise, a majority-owned subsidiary of GM, unveiled in January a driverless, electric shuttle for ride-sharing called Origin. The automaker initially had plans to launch a self-driving fleet of vehicles last year in San Francisco but indefinitely delayed those plans for further testing.

Her comments came a day after the company’s annual shareholder meeting, where she promised the company will remain steadfast on its plans to invest $20 billion in all-electric and autonomous vehicles through 2025.

The automaker is in the midst of reopening its North American production. Barra has said the company plans to get production back or close to pre-coronavirus levels by the end of this month.

“The return to work has been going pretty well,” Barra said Wednesday, adding she has visited eight plants to talk with employees and ensure they feel safe returning to work.

“We’re cautiously optimistic as we see demand resuming.”

A small amount of GM’s salaried employees have returned to offices and other work sites. The company has not released an exact time frame for all of its salaried employees to return to work. Ford Motor said it expects to begin the process in September.

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