GM absorbs commercial EV unit BrightDrop, CEO out

BrightDrop, General Motors’ commercial EV subsidiary due to launch in 2021, has been swallowed up by its parent company.

GM said Thursday that BrightDrop — a “startup” that spun out of the automaker’s Global Innovation organization to become a wholly owned subsidiary — will become part of GM. BrightDrop CEO Travis Katz, who was an entrepreneur-in-residence at Redpoint Ventures before taking the top position, has resigned from the role of CEO and is no longer employed by GM, the company confirmed.

A small number of BrightDrop employees are expected to be affected by the change as some positions are being eliminated. The company said most employees should be able to move to other jobs within GM.

GM cast the move in a positive light, noting that BrightDrop’s absorption into the company would benefit fleet customers by providing them with an efficient point of contact through a new commercial brand that GM Involves. GM Involves, launched in May 2023, covers the automaker’s entire commercial portfolio, including gas-powered and EV vehicles as well as connected services and software used by fleet customers. BrightDrop was created to sell an ecosystem of electric and connected products to commercial customers. Its first products are an electric van called the EV600 and a pod-like electric pallet called the EP1.

“We are committed to helping our fleet customers drive their businesses forward,” Rory Harvey, EVP and President of GM North America said in an emailed statement. “Our new commercial solutions and EV vehicle options from the Chevrolet Bolt EV to the BrightDrop Zevo are all available through GM Envolve. This gives our customers one stop shopping for all their commercial need.”

The idea for BrightDrop was sparked by a team within Global Innovation — the same in-house organization that led to the creation of OnStar Insurance, OnStar Guardian and GM Defense — that evaluated e-commerce growth and demand. of consumers for online delivery, exacerbated by COVID-19.

When it first launched, GM said BrightDrop’s independence and startup-like structure were assets that would allow it to move quickly and gain market share. Months after its launch, Katz told TechCrunch that the data obtained from these commercial EVs is where the company can build lasting relationships. For example, the logistics system can track the chain of custody, how trucks traverse routes and how packages move to help determine if deliveries have hit a bottleneck and how a company can eliminate shortages. “In the long term, I think we see that … the real exciting opportunity. We see ourselves as a solutions provider, but it’s software at the core,” Katz said in 2021.

GM also has ambitious goals for BrightDrop, saying in November at its investment day that the subsidiary is on track to reach $1 billion in revenue by 2023. The company reported at the time that it had received more than 25,000 reservations and letters of intent from customers, including Walmart, Hertz and FedEx.

It’s unclear whether BrightDrop has met that target because GM hasn’t broken out its financials.

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