Executive Summary: General Motors AUTOnomy Project

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Executive Summary: General Motors’ AUTOnomy Project GM’S STRATEGY FOR DEVELOPING FUEL CELL TECHNOLOGY General Motors (GM) has invested heavily in technology to reduce emissions and vehicles powered by alternative fuels. Interest in alternative fuels was improved, driven by three factors: the concern over greenhouse gas emission, the increase dependency over US on oil and the concern that global demand for fuel would outstrip supply. GM has developed their strategy while facing many uncertainties regarding new alternative car technologies. In 1990, GM begins the development of electric and battery-powered vehicles. Given the high cost and limited range, sales were disappointing. In 1997 GM develops its own fuel-cell stack technology including first fuel cell car prototype HydroGen1. The first mover strategy gave the company the capability to use patents and intellectual property difficult to copy from competitors. By 2000, the US market has matured and foreign competition has eroded the market share of the three domestic players to less than 60%. In 2000, GM started potential working on the interface between design and technology considering three important aspects for the new car: safety, environment and performance. GM developed the idea of a “skateboard”. Combining a fuel cell-based skateboard and drive-by-wire technology allows the body and chassis to be completely separate. This radical concept represented a new business model option in the automotive industry. This project was called AUTOnomy with important implications: reduction of large plants and reduction of cost. By 2003, the fuel cell program represented the largest innovation program in GM in the automobile industry trying to manage the transition to a completely different source of power - the hydrogen fuel cell. GM spent 6% of sales annually on research and development. Many challenges needed be

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