Akerson on Tech Investments

Dan Akerson, chairman and CEO of General Motors, made a keynote address at the Society of Automotive Engineers 2011 World Congress last Thursday night that includes a passage that is worth noting in full.

Dan Akerson, chairman and CEO of General Motors, made a keynote address at the Society of Automotive Engineers 2011 World Congress last Thursday night that includes a passage that is worth noting in full. In it, Akerson talks about technology and about the need to make the investments that are necessary to drive technology forward through people, research and development, and bricks and mortar. Clearly, given that GM has gone through financially, these are not investments that are being made lightly, and if they’re making these investments, then other companies that may have not gone through a bankruptcy filing ought to think long and hard about whether they can afford not to be in the game.

Here’s part of what Akerson said:

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Photo: Steve Fecht for General Motors

“In a fast-changing, technology-based business like ours, you win by charging forward, by investing in technology, in good times and bad. Some would say especially in bad, and I’m not opposed to that.

“The global auto industry is changing. That’s a fact. As companies, we can lead that change or we can become casualties of it.

“At GM, we choose to lead.

“That’s why we’ve invested more than $700-million in recent years in Michigan facilities to bring the Volt to market.

“That’s why we announced in November that we’ll hire 1,000 new engineers and researchers in Michigan over the next two years to significantly expand our electric vehicle programs.

“That’s why we’re raising our R&D and product spending this year and why we’ll maintain it at higher levels going forward… in good times and bad.

“And that’s why we created GM Ventures last June to identify and develop new automotive technologies. Somewhere, some kid is inventing the next Hewlett-Packard in his garage. We want to find him or her and help bring those exciting new ideas to market.

“Does it cost more to bring these things to market? Of course. It requires a lot of up-front investment.

“In the long run, investing in technology and R&D – and engineering – will strengthen our individual companies, improve the prospects for our industry, and help to grow our economy.”