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TheStreet Open House

Advice for GM's CEO Mary Barra

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- All automakers, including General Motors (GM), are in the early stages of a siege from the most innovative automotive company, Tesla (TSLA).

This article is an action plan for what GM and its newly announced CEO, Mary Barra, need to do in order to prevent Tesla from taking away a large chunk of its customers within a decade from now.

Let's first stipulate what kind of cars people want in the new world of electrified transportation:

A Wide Range of Body Styles and Sizes

Cars are different for a reason. People are different and so are their needs. You have small cars, big cars and all sizes in between. Some cars are two-wheel drive, others four-wheel drive. Some have high ground clearance, others low.

So far, there has been too little choice as to the body styles offered with some form of plug-in. Mostly they have been smaller cars, some four-seaters (Chevrolet Volt and Spark come to mind). Even the Tesla Model S doesn't have a roomy rear seat -- it's very low and ceiling height is too low.

There are very few four-wheel drive plug-ins available worldwide (only Volvo and Mitsubishi), and about as few with high ground clearance. None with three rows of seats, fitting seven or eight full-sized adults.

Many people I know who have a Chevy Volt are telling me: I want my next car to be as large as a Honda (HMC) Odyssey or Chevrolet Suburban. This is where a good chunk of the market will be, and Tesla will be there with the Model X in 2015 or 2016 at the latest.

A Choice of All-Electric and Extended-Range (Hybrid)

While the math made by most people in the auto industry points to extended-range hybrids (such as the Volt) being the most economical plug-in over the lifetime of the car, Tesla and Nissan among others have proven that all-electrics also do sell, whether it's rational or not. There will be a rainbow of solutions, again because people and their needs are different.

From a technical standpoint, the three most interesting cars to be launched are the Chevrolet Volt, the Tesla Model S and the BMW i3 with range-extender. They represent the three major architectural choices for full-power electric motor driving -- all-electric with long range, as well as two types of extended-range.

The Importance of Infrastructure, Even as a Strict Marketing Tool

Most people with a plug-in car charge in two places, most of the time: at home and at the office. That said, most of the time we also don't need -- or want -- insurance. Insurance is not for what we do every day or every week. Perhaps not even every month. It's for the outlier event.

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