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Innovation GM's Way Forward

By Steve Kiefer, VP-Global Purchasing and Supply Chain, General Motors

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Steve Kiefer, VP-Global Purchasing and Supply Chain, General Motors

General Motors is a company built on innovation. More than a century ago, the electric starter that debuted in the 1912 Cadillac Touring Edition helped establish Cadillac’s reputation as a test bed of technology and innovation. It was GM’s first electric motor–a core business today that has fueled the development, introduction, and industry growth of vehicle electrification.

In particular, electrification of the automobile has been a driver of innovation at GM. It was General Motors that sparked the development and growth of electric vehicles and lithium-ion battery technology with the introduction of the industry-first, range-extended Chevrolet Volt in 2010.

This year alone, the industry has added more than a dozen new or updated plug-in hybrid electric vehicles to the U.S. market.

More than 100 years after the debut of the electric starter motor, innovation is our way forward more than ever. With the help of our supplier partners, GM’s legacy of innovation and advanced vehicle technologies have emerged in the application of alternative fuel sources; new propulsion systems; lighter, stronger materials; industry-leading connectivity; and even cars that talk to each other.

For example, GM’s advanced intelligent and connected vehicle technologies alter traditional automotive transportation. GM is a recognized leader in vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) technologies and one of the first automakers committed to bringing the technology to market. The 2017 Cadillac CTS will offer this advanced feature, which could mitigate many traffic collisions and reduce traffic congestion by sending and receiving basic safety information such as location, speed and direction of travel between vehicles approaching each other. It will warn drivers and can supplement active safety features, such as forward collision warning, already available on many of our Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac vehicles.

An advanced driver assist technology called Super Cruise will also be available in a future Cadillac vehicle, enabled with V2V communication technology. Super Cruise will offer customers a new type of driving experience that includes hands-off lane following, braking and speed control in certain highway driving conditions. The system is designed to increase the comfort of an attentive driver on freeways, in bumper-to-bumper traffic and on long road trips.

GM created the “original connected car” in 1996 with OnStar emergency and personal services. Today, OnStar has fielded more than one billion requests from customers for a multitude of services like Automatic Crash Response, Stolen Vehicle Assistance, Turn-by-Turn Navigation, RemoteLink mobile app; key lockouts; and vehicle diagnostics and maintenance reminders – just to name a few.

We expect this incredible customer demand for connectivity will continue to grow. According to Strategy Analytics, there are more than 2.3 billion smartphones in use globally, and that number continues to rise. Whether they have an Apple or Android phone, we are committed to providing the smartest, simplest connected driving experience possible to owners across the globe.

With the recent introduction of OnStar’s 4GLTE in-vehicle mobile hot spot, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto, we believe we have biggest rollout of new personal connectivity technologies in the automotive industry.

OnStar’s 4G LTE mobile data speeds allow GM vehicles to act as Wi-Fi hot spots connecting up to seven devices simultaneously. We’ve introduced 4G LTE technology on more than 1 million Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac vehicles in North America. In fact, we sold more 4GLTE connected vehicles in three days in July than the rest of the industry combined has sold in six months. Next year, we expect all Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac and GMC vehicles in the U.S. will be equipped with 4G technology.

For the 2016 model year, Chevrolet alone will offer Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility in more models than any automotive brand.

Apple CarPlay takes the iPhone features you’d want to access while driving and puts them on the vehicle’s display in a smart, simple manner. Many of these features can be controlled via voice commands through a button on the steering wheel, helping drivers spend more time with eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.

With all these great innovations we know that we must go further and extend beyond a specific component, software, or drive system. Innovation must also come in the form of how we operate as a company—our individual functions, processes, relationships, and more.

We’ve opened the door to new ways of doing things and have implemented efficient tools to nurture supplier relationships. As we go forward, we’re working on reducing complexity with our greatest opportunity—taking full advantage of GM’s scale.

“We’ve moved from a functional to an enterprise-wide focus, enabling faster improvements in quality and profitability, while bringing new technologies and innovations faster to market for the benefit of our customers”

This year, we expect to produce about 10 million cars, trucks and crossovers. We are launching more than 10 new vehicles this year in the U.S. alone, and our business and cultural priorities are more important than ever before.

We have placed a major focus on total cost, enterprise, and waste-free value streams. We’ve moved from a functional to an enterprise-wide focus, enabling faster improvements in quality and profitability, while bringing new technologies and innovations faster to market for the benefit of our customers.

Another major priority for us are supplier partnerships. We have implemented tools designed to make our partnerships mutually efficient, including business models that allow us to engage suppliers early in the development process of a new vehicle, as well as methods to share information more transparently for increased alignment.

We also introduced a business model that allows GM and our suppliers to jointly identify and eliminate waste in our value streams. We have implemented a new organization for better alignment of demand and supply from initial planning through regular production. New methodologies and tools will provide more accurate volume planning and stability for our supplier partners, such as awarding contracts for two generations of vehicles. These tools are designed to help our business, and that of our suppliers.

There’s certainly more work to be done, but GM is changing how we do business and elevating and accelerating innovation. It is our goal to be the OEM of choice for suppliers, and through the best innovations we will win together.

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