By on October 22, 2020


You likely know that lead times in the automotive industry are long when it comes to developing new or significantly redesigned models.

You also likely know that one of the reasons for the long lead times is that automakers spend a lot of time testing prototypes, putting untold numbers of miles on test mules on public roads, at dedicated proving grounds, and in harsh weather environments.

Yet, the newly introduced GMC Hummer EV is just beginning to undergo testing.

That’s shocking, given that GMC plans to launch the truck just about a year from now.

“Interestingly enough, we don’t have a vehicle yet,” chief engineer Al Oppenheiser (formerly the Chevrolet Camaro’s chief engineer) told Green Car Reports. “We’re building our first test vehicle as we speak; the vehicle you see in the video is our display vehicle.”

This, to put it mildly, is unusual. So, too, is the Hummer’s greenlight-to-launch time. GM gave the go-ahead in April 2019. That means if the launch of the Hummer EV proceeds on schedule and launches in the fall of next year, that’s about two and a half years from conception to launch. Fairly short of the typical three to five years, and perhaps an industry first, according to GCR. All the more unusual given that the truck is an EV, and while EV tech isn’t all that new, it’s still new enough, especially in terms of mass production, that it’s surprising to have such a short lead time.

Oppenheiser told GCR that the fact that some of the EV underpinnings are modular has been a time-saver. GM also claims that while the test mules are just now being built, the Ultium battery packs are fully ready to go.

Compare 30 months of research and development to what the report says is “at least” five years for the mid-engine C8 Corvette, and the mind boggles a bit. Many of the engineers on the Hummer team moved over from Corvette.

The short lead time might make worrywarts nervous about quality, while the optimists among us might wonder if GM and GMC can learn lessons that help shorten lead times across the industry. There’s also every chance that this is just a one-time thing, and that even if lessons are learned that improve the development process and build quality doesn’t suffer, lead times might not be shortened for other vehicles.

There’s also no guarantee that the Hummer launches on time, and that may not be GMC’s fault. Yes, of course, delays in development could occur as testing reveals problems that need to be ironed out. But as the current Corvette shows, external factors could delay production. The C8 has been slowed by strike, COVID, and parts shortages. The same fate could await the Hummer.

The future will be the present soon enough. For now, one can gaze upon GMC with awe or horror or a mixture of both for proceeding in this fashion.

[Image: GMC]

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8 Comments on “GMC Has No Hummer EV Test Mules Yet...”

  • avatar

    I’m shocked, but not surprised. GM doing GM things.

  • avatar

    This sounds like a panicked response. They would do well to remember what happened Chrysler rushed a transaxle into production. They’re doing a whole vehicle with an all new powertrain. There’s no way Barra can be on board with this.

    • 0 avatar

      The lack of prototypes might not be a problem.

      Think about what has happened in terms of electronic design tools for cars in the last 25 years.

      Twenty five years ago, finite element analysis started to supplant crash testing as a design analysis tool — changing the design process from iteratively crashing cars to see how they perform to making/testing most design changes electronically, and then crashing a few cars throughout the process to validate the simulations. The newer and more computationally-intensive process saves time, money, and lives.

      But that was state-of-the-art in the 1990s. It’s been 25 years, which is enough time for an entire generation of engineers to be born, be educated, and start working at GM. And it’s also enough tools to have created newer and better tools for those folks to use.

      In the intervening 25 years, the electronic project lifecycle management and process has undoubtedly gotten better. And, with COVID and work-from-home, there is every reason to double down on virtual project management and engineering. In other words, prototypes don’t get you as much as they used to — and they’re also expensive and time consuming to build.

      At this point in engineering history, any car company could have a substantially complete and fully thought-out design that’s ready to go before the first prototype was built.

      Of course, they still have to build and test the prototype. The point of all of this analytical/virtual engineering is to make it possible to get it right with the first prototype. After 25 years of this, we could be there.

      Additional point: don’t confuse a full integration prototype with the mules used to test drivetrain components. Rivian tested their drivetrain components in converted F-150s, and GM (and their suppliers) have likely completed full test programs on the components.

      Lastly, EVs are mechanically much simpler than gas cars. What complexity there is lives in the software.

      This GMC Hummer thing isn’t likely to win a spot in my dirveway (the Tesla Cybertruck is ugly AF but satisfies my needs better for less money) but, given how engineering has progressed over the last 25 years, having GM’s engineers upload their work to something like Github+TDD (instead of building prototypes) sounds like a way build trucks better, faster, AND cheaper.

      • 0 avatar

        And the software to run an EV is much simpler than that required to run an ICE and umpteen-speed automatic transmission that meets emission standards and has no driveablity hiccups.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    At least Tesla shows up with a running prototype for its product reveals.

    GM must be pretty confident they won’t hit a technology or packaging roadblock on the way to production.

    The modularity and ‘ready to go’ claim for the Ultium battery pack is supposed to allay concerns, but that pack has never been deployed before. Besides, a battery pack does not an EV make.

    Chevy having the 6.2L engine on hand doesn’t mean the Corvette C8 would easily spring forth. They ran into all kinds of problems getting that car to production, cooling and electrical being two of them.

  • avatar

    You guys are funny. Probably never worked at start up. What tests? QA costs money and time. And time is money too. Developers will run unit tests. Is that not enough? Time to market is more important and service packs will always follow.

  • avatar

    Testing schmesting.
    At GM we don’t test anything – our customers do.

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