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GM CEO does not expect consumer shift back to passenger cars

The head of General Motors Co. does not expect consumer preferences to shift to cars from larger vehicles, CEO Mary Barra said during a shareholder meeting June 4.

During the carmaker's first "virtual" shareholders' meeting streamed online, Barra was asked what the automaker will do if the economy slows and fuel prices rise, now that GM has cut back on car production in favor of higher-priced vehicles requiring more fuel.

The CEO said GM still produces some cars, including the Chevrolet Malibu, but compact SUVs provide a "great experience" for the driver that is also fuel efficient.

"So although people may shift from a larger SUV to a smaller SUV, from a fuel perspective, we think there [are] now many more choices and many fuel-efficient choices when people look at their overall cost of ownership," Barra said. "So we don't see a shift [back to cars] like we saw in the past."

Barra added that for consumers in the full-size truck market, their trucks are part of their livelihoods.

In November 2018, GM announced it would cut car production and reduce its workforce as part of a restructuring plan as consumer preferences shifted to larger vehicles.

The CEO teased that GM has new products on the horizon but did not reveal details.

"We think this will give us the ability to offer consumers a good choice even with a variation of fuel prices and, of course, electrification on top of that," Barra said.

The Detroit-based automaker is committed to a zero-emissions future, Barra said, adding that the company is working to reduce emissions from SUVs and trucks.

"We're looking at every component of the vehicle to ensure that we are using all of the latest technology and materials to take mass out of the vehicle," Barra said. "That has been something that we've demonstrated with every new vehicle architecture that we put out."

GM is working on different technologies and applying them to powertrains to make them more efficient, the CEO said.