Chart of the day: Top 10 Automotive Innovators Focused on Autonomous Driving (Plus, Google)

January 22, 2015 at 1:43 pm

Image courtesy: via BusinessInsider

Given the great amount of public interest in automated vehicles, global automakers are no longer kidding around. Off late, they are investing a great amount of  time and resources, particularly in the research shops at Hyundai, GM and Toyota, in developing technologies to support this ambitious agenda. The chart below shows the spike in number of patents related to autonomous driving from the auto OEMs. The chart was part of a survey report by Thomson Reuters IP & Science, “The State of Innovation in the Automotive Industry 2015,” which analyzed patent applications and mapped trends in five key areas: Propulsion, navigation, handling, safety and security, and entertainment.

Image Courtesy:

According to Reuters, Overall, Asians and Germans dominated the top 10 companies for patent applications, while GM, ranked seventh, was the only U.S. company making the list. The automotive sector saw the number of patent filings around the world grow by double-digits year-on-year over the past five years, the Thomson Reuters report said. While Google Inc has dominated headlines in self-driving cars, Toyota, GM and Hyundai received the most patents in this area, said Bob Stembridge, one of the report’s authors.


America Loves a Good Come Back! President Obama Lauds GM’s Evolution From Detroit’s Dud to Wall Street’s Darling

November 18, 2010 at 7:35 pm

(Sources:  White &

Watching GM turn the corner from a disastrous dud and morph into a Detroit’s Stud and a Wall Street darling, no could’ve been happier than President Obama and his team of economic advisors at the White House, who advised him on the bailout that rescued thousands of jobs and the iconic brand from a collapse.  The stunning turnaround culminated with a successful IPO debuting in the marketplace today. General Motors stock closed at $34.19 today, just above the $33 price of the initial public offering.

An elated President Obama convened a press conference this afternoon and shared his sentiment and belief in GM’s recovery strategy.

Today, one of the toughest tales of the recession took another big step towards becoming a success story.

General Motors relaunched itself as a public company, cutting the government’s stake in the company by nearly half.  What’s more, American taxpayers are now positioned to recover more than my administration invested in GM.

And that’s a very good thing.  Last year, we told GM’s management and workers that if they made the tough decisions necessary to make themselves more competitive in the 21st century — decisions requiring real leadership, fresh thinking and also some shared sacrifice –- then we would stand by them.  And because they did, the American auto industry -– an industry that’s been the proud symbol of America’s manufacturing might for a century; an industry that helped to build our middle class -– is once again on the rise.

Our automakers are in the midst of their strongest period of job growth in more than a decade.  Since GM and Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy, the industry has created more than 75,000 new jobs.  For the first time in six years, Ford, GM and Chrysler are all operating at a profit.  In fact, last week, GM announced its best quarter in over 11 years.  And most importantly, American workers are back at the assembly line manufacturing the high-quality, fuel-efficient, American-made cars of tomorrow, capable of going toe to toe with any other manufacturer in the world. Click here to read the president’s entire speech.

Freep’s awesome cartoonist Mike Thompson charts this wonderful recovery from a dud to a darling with a series of cartoons on his blog.  He also adds the following to go with his nice drawings:

As if this weren’t bad enough for auto bailout critics, the Ann Arbor-based Center for Automotive Research has released a report that validates the logic behind the bailout. As Free Press business writer Greg Gardner reported, “The CAR study says the federal government would have spent $28.6 billion more than it did on unemployment benefits, Medicare, Social Security and other programs had the automakers liquidated. So the entire rescue will pay for itself if the government can generate $38 billion from selling its shares.” But perhaps the most chilling details in the story were the report’s conclusions that liquidation of the two auto companies would have meant the loss of 1.4 million jobs and $121 billion in personal income.

Whew!  This above facts-full paragraph must be making many of the naysayers, like the conservative columnist Mr. George Will feel like throwing up.  A couple of days ago, he wrote an op-ed titled , Toxic Volt, on Washington Post saying a whole lot of negative things about the President’s Bailout for GM.  The President and Steven Rattner, the brains behind the execution of the bailout plan, should be chuckling over the phone talking about how bad they feel for George Will.  Sadly enough, the doubters still continue to find a way to question the legitimacy of success. Fox Business  News in an article on its website says massive dilution from existing shares, warrants and grants, as well as unfunded pension costs. And GM’s cash flow is still heavily reliant on tens of billions of dollars in tax breaks and taxpayer-backed loans from the Dept. of Energy.

  Image Courtesy:

Image Courtesy:

If this is not victory enough for the President, today GM notched another impressive feat, which is more like a beautiful foil to the wonderful present inside – the IPO. The Detroit Free Press reports that the Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle has won Green Car of the Year, beating out the pure-electric Nissan Leaf, hours after General Motors returned to the stock market. The award, decided by judges that include environmental enthusiasts and Green Car Journal editors, comes the same week as the Volt won MotorTrend Car of the Year and Automobile Magazine’s Automobile of the Year.  How awesome could that for a man who was chided constantly by his opponents for the decisions he made to save the brand and the thousands of jobs associated with the existence of the brand.

I bet tonight the President of the United States will have a drink to celebrate one of his biggest victories since assuming office.  He will probably sleep a little better tonight with one less thing to worry about.

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The perks keep coming! Buy an electric car to become a magnet for attention –

October 7, 2010 at 5:30 pm

Going electric has its own benefits which include – Tax credits, rebate checks, personalized home visits, government giveaways — even customer service calls from top corporate executives.
Mr. McNaughton, a lawyer in Nashville, paid his $99 deposit, he has been bombarded with government incentives — promises of a $7,500 federal tax credit, a $2,500 cash rebate from the state of Tennessee, and a $3,000 home-charging unit courtesy of the Energy Department.

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Precisely. It is all part of an unprecedented effort by federal, state and local governments to stimulate demand for cars that have zero tailpipe emissions — and Nissan’s pre-emptive bid to corner the all-electric market much the way that Toyota dominated the early hybrid market with the Prius.

The government subsidies are shaving thousands of dollars off the Leaf’s $32,780 sticker price, while other benefits are piling up, like free parking in some cities and the use of express lanes on highways usually reserved for cars with multiple passengers. In Tennessee, where a Leaf assembly plant is being built, Leaf drivers will be able to charge their vehicles free at public charging stations on 425 miles of freeways that connect Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga.

“It’s almost shocking how many subsidies are available on the Leaf,” said Jeremy P. Anwyl, chief executive of the auto research Web site “We are putting a lot of money behind this technology.”



General Motors CEO to Make $9 Million a Year

September 10, 2010 at 5:59 pm

Is this a sign of bad things to return? The chief executive of General Motors, Daniel F. Akerson, will receive up to $9 million in annual compensation, including $1.7 million in cash. The cost of concessions for the average auto worker $7,000 to $30,000 in annual pay, according to the United Auto Workers so that some of these Armani wearing fat cats can get the high $$$.

Autoblog reports that Dan’s colleague at Ford – CEO, Alan Mulally – makes substantially more. He netted $17.9 million in cash and bonuses in 2009. GM and Chrysler had to offer less because of they received Govt. bailout funds.

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Mr. Akerson’s pay package, which G.M. disclosed Friday in a regulatory filing, is structured the same as that of his predecessor, Edward E. Whitacre Jr., who stepped down as chief on Sept. 1 but will remain chairman until the end of the year. The compensation was approved by Kenneth R. Feinberg, the government’s special master for executive compensation under the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which lent about $50 billion to G.M., the company said in the regulatory filing.

Mr. Akerson, the fourth chief at G.M. since March 2009, will receive $5.3 million a year in stock, paid over three years starting Sept. 30, 2011, and $2 million a year in restricted stock under a long-term incentive plan, G.M. said. Mr. Whitacre is scheduled to begin receiving his stock in 2012.



GM prepares its getaway (i.e., IPO) – The @Economist reads the future

August 13, 2010 at 4:35 pm

Alright..That’s two straight quarters of stellar performance in a crazy economic climate with consumers holding onto their wallets tightly. Does this mean GM got out of the dark? Probably! But the million dollar, unanswered & unclear question: – what’s next for the behemoth as it gets ready to jettison the old image and launch into the future? The economist dives into educating us with what’s ahead for GM…

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ED WHITACRE, a former head of AT&T who took over the reins at General Motors last December and who yesterday announced his own imminent departure, deserves a small round of applause for what he has achieved. Just over a year ago, GM was taking its first faltering steps on the road to recovery, as it emerged from its government-orchestrated “quick-rinse” bankruptcy. But despite shedding debt, dropping several brands, shrinking its bloated dealer network, cutting jobs and securing concessions from those workers who remained, there were still plenty of sceptics.

Could a company that had lost $88 billion in the four years to 2009, had only been kept afloat with $60 billion from American and Canadian taxpayers and which had become known as “Government Motors” really shuffle off its culture of failure so easily? However, after reporting net earnings of $1.3 billion for the three months to the end of June yesterday—the carmaker’s second profitable quarter in a row and its best since 2004—the evidence that “New GM”, as it likes to call itself, is a different business is mounting. So much so that later today or early next week, the company is expected to file an S-1 registration document with the Securities and Exchange Commission, paving the way for an initial public offering before the end of the year.



“Tough, Sexy, Smart” – Brisk Business for GM in India

May 15, 2010 at 10:36 am

(Source: Washington Post)

The iconic American carmaker went bankrupt last year, but its Indian operations have never been busier, evidence of India’s booming economic growth and the rising prosperity of middle classes that are increasingly demanding first-world trappings in one of the fastest-rising countries.

“The new generation wants to hold the steering wheel in their hands,” said Prabhjot Singh, manager of a driving school who said young Indians who used to go to him to learn how to drive scooters are now flooding in to learn how to drive cars.

With rising household wealth, the growth of suburbs and highways and a youthful population, India is the second-fastest-growing market for car sales in the world after China. India’s auto industry reported a 26.4 percent growth in sales in 2009-10, partly because a government stimulus package lowered once sky-high interest rates and made financing easier, according to a study by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM).

The Indian government also cut manufacturing taxes in late 2008 and early 2009 to protect domestic markets and attract overseas partners. India’s economy continued to grow at 8 percent, second only to China’s.

Part of the secret to India’s success is that it is producing cars that fit the “sweet spot,” or a budget of less than $7,000 for first-time car buyers. While the United States continues building gas-guzzling tanks, India has perfected the “mini-car.” Tata’s famed Nano, the world’s cheapest car, is an extreme example. It costs about $2,000 and sales are reportedly brisk.

With far lower labor costs, GM India is more willing to be innovative. The company recently announced that it will join Reva, India’s electric-car company, to roll out a new vehicle this year.

Click here to read the entire article.

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Meet GM’s new EN-V , the transporter for 2030 is sleek, electric & automated

March 24, 2010 at 4:13 pm

(Sources: Wired; RTTNews, Associated Press, The Detroit News GM Press Release)

Image Courtesy: GM

General Motors always dreams big, no matter how much money they have in their bank account.  Now that Uncle Sam’s treasury is backing up the financial future,  GM continues its tradition of dreaming big and the latest outcome of this is a future where people navigate crowded cities in big Segways that look kinda like a Dyson vacuum cleaner and can drive you home when you’ve had one too many after a long day at work. . Seriously.

Today, GM unveiled a trio of electric “urban mobility vehicles,” built with help from the über-geeks at Segway, today in Shanghai. They’re called Electric Networked Vehicles (EN-V) and they’re designed for cities bursting at the seams with traffic.  The EN-V, pronounced “envy,” is GM’s latest effort to burnish its credentials as a future-focused, environmentally friendly company and shed its image as the bastion of the gas guzzling Hummer. The automaker is in the process of winding down Hummer after a deal collapsed to sell it to a Chinese heavy equipment maker. The helmet-shaped two-seater vehiclesunveiled today in Shanghai will be now showcased at world expo 2010 to be held in Shanghai starting May 1 through October 31. The pavilion will be shared by GM with its Chinese partner SAIC Motor Corp.  There will be three models on display in Shanghai:

  • Red – Jiao, or Pride – Created by designers at GM Europe, the vehicle was influenced by bullet trains and Chinese opera masks.
  • Black – Miao, or Magic –  Sculpted by designers at GM’s Advanced Design Studio in California and influenced by the consumer electronics industry’s sleek, masculine looks.
  • Blue –  Xiao, or Laugh –  Created by GM Holden’s designers in Australia, who took a more lighthearted approach to the vehicle’s “gumball blue” paint and nautical design.

Shanghai is the perfect place to show the funky runabouts because China is the largest automobile market on the planet. A lot of thought is going into figuring out how all those people buying all those cars will get around. Sixty percent of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2030 and there will be 2 billion cars on the road. Automakers are looking for ways to build cars that pollute less and take up less

Here are some interesting nuggets gleaned from the above sources:

  • To that end, the two-seater concepts are about one-sixth the size of a conventional car.
  • They’re made of lightweight materials like carbon fiber and weigh just 1,000 pounds apiece. GM says you can squeeze five of them into a single parking space.
  • The 1.5 meter by 1.5 meter (about 5 foot by 5 foot) EN-V appears to build on GM’s earlier work with Segway Inc. in developing the Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility (PUMA) concept vehicle. It will use the same types of battery cells as the Segway and the same battery supplier, Valence Technology Inc.
  • The propulsion technique employed in the prototype was, however, introduced earlier by GM on its Hy-wire concept, introduced at the Paris Motor Show 2006.  The forward-thinking concepts build upon we saw last year in New York.
  • Powered by Lithium-ion batteries and enriched with capabilities like dramatically smaller turning radius, the zero-emission vehicle is designed to travel at least 40 kilometers on a single charge.
  • GM notes that the operating costs are one-fifth to one-sixth the price of a conventional motor vehicle and one-third to one-fourth the operating cost of a passenger car.
  • The EN-Vs are super-connected. They’ll use GPS, distance-sensing technology and vehicle-to-vehicle communications to ease congestion and reduce the risk of accidents. GM says the vehicles can “sense” what’s around them and react quickly to obstacles or changes in driving conditions.
  • There’s a motor in each wheel and a lithium-ion battery. It’s got “dynamic stabilization technology” so it can balance on two wheels, and GM says it can “literally turn on a dime.” It also says the vehicles have a range of 25 miles and a top speed of 25 mph, which it says is more than adequate for daily city driving.
  • There will be an estimated 1.2 billion vehicles worldwide in 2030. That’s up from 844 million three years ago, according to the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association.
  • People living in major cities will have a more difficult time commuting because in 20 years, 60 percent of the world’s population will live in urban areas, according to GM.
  • In major cities, 30 percent of fuel is wasted while drivers hunt for parking spots, which adds to the cost associated with operating vehicles.


Click here for some interesting pictures and a detailed scoop.  If you are interested in reading more about the concept and have the time to enjoy some cool videos that demonstrate the technology and vision, click here.

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OnStar remotely disables stolen SUV; Saves gasoline, lives of civilians, cops, etc from a potentially deadly high-speed chase

October 19, 2009 at 6:34 pm

(Sources: AP via Yahoo; KMPH Fox26 & LA Times)

The 2009 Chevrolet Tahoe roared away with officers in pursuit, but shortly after the suspect made a right turn, operators at General Motors Co.’s OnStar service sent a command that electronically disabled the gas pedal and the SUV gradually came to a halt.

The flustered thief got out and ran, but was quickly nabbed after he climbed several fences and fell into a backyard swimming pool, police said.

It was the first time since OnStar began offering the service in the 2009 model year that it was used to end a chase that could otherwise have had dire consequences.

Shortly after the incident was reported,  officers quickly contacted OnStar and got the owner’s permission to find the vehicle. Police spotted it a few miles away, but as officers made a U-turn to pursue it, the Tahoe sped off at a high speed.  The suspect made a turn, and police dispatchers told the pursuing officers that OnStar was about to disable the Tahoe. It then rolled to a halt, and the robber was quickly captured.
OnStar President Walt Dorfstatter said it took only 16 minutes from the time OnStar was notified for the vehicle to be stopped.

Click here to read the entire article.

Mixing Volt & Water – A glimpse into the making of the GM’s (Government Motor) Chevy Volt

August 29, 2009 at 12:27 pm

(Source: via Autoinsane)

Have you ever wondered while sitting inside your car at an automated car wash, what goes on behind the scenes to test and design a vehicle so that it doesn’t leak while your car is drenched with gallons of water?  Or have you pondered driving through that pouring rain about how to stop that annoying sound of rain drops hitting the sheetmetal roof and the windshield? Here is a glimpse into that world of designing and testing a car for its “water worthiness”, courtesy of our friends at Auto Insane.

Development on the Chevy Volt continues to progress at neck-break speed and GM has been sharing bits and pieces of the vehicle’s testing and engineering along the way. This new video caught our interest for the sheer fact that it combines the “electric” Volt undergoing leak testing in GM’s Universal Water Chamber.

For more information and behind the scenes videos of the Chevy Volt, head over  Also you can visit ChevroletVehicles to see more such videos from the Chevy Line up (including a Transformer demo).

Size Matters? No, Says Forbes’ Adam Hartung (At least not for GM to implode)

August 12, 2009 at 12:43 pm

(Source:  Forbes)

GM. Those two letters call up a lot of emotion these days. People ask, “What went wrong?” “How could a company that large, that successful, go bankrupt?” The less polite say: “General Motors’ leadership is corrupt.” “They ignored customers.” “The union killed them.” “Government interference.” “Idiots.”

We used to expect size to benefit a company. Being large and established meant you were supposed to have market clout, and you could protect your profits. According to Michael Porter, Harvard Business School professor and author, being biggest meant you had created entry barriers that kept your turf safe. With economies of scale in manufacturing, procurement, distribution, marketing, sales, financing and research and development, you could get so giant no competitor could effectively attack your products or prices. And for many, many years, nobody was bigger than General MotorsGMGMQ.PK– news – people ).

The myth of the invulnerability of the large company is dead. We all know that by now. But other than depressing us, what does it mean? What have we learned from these failures that can help us be more successful in the future?

Many theories of business–from the work of Fredrick Winslow Taylor, who introduced modern management practices a century ago, to that of writers like Jim Collins today–have posited that success comes largely from figuring out what business you want to be in and then focusing on it intently. Pay attention to the resources on which you rely, invest to gain advantages of scale, operate with a tight focus on your goals and you should succeed.

This approach is based on an industrial-age understanding of oligopoly, where over time a pool of competitors shrinks to just the most efficient handful that can all be profitable in the long term. In other words, as Jim Collins has argued, if you set yourself a big, audacious goal and focus on tight management, you should expect to grow large and profitable in the end.

It’s good that GM’s situation raises people’s blood pressure. The company’s trip through bankruptcy is a highly visible sign of how markets have changed. To pull out of this recession, we need to make sure other companies don’t follow GM’s route. Leaders need to stop focusing on traditional market leadership, size and scale. They must abandon that approach to success. Now, more than ever, they have to identify market shifts and reposition their organizations to play in growing markets.

Profit comes from leading customers into new markets, not from optimizing your position in historical ones. To pick a winner, look for companies that shift with markets rather than trying to wield clout. To create a winner, build such a company.

Click here to read the entire article.