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Lightweighting is priority for GM: Akerson

Keywords: Tags  General Motors, Dan Akerson, material technology, lightweighting, research and development, aluminum, Corinna Petry

CHICAGO — General Motors Co. has made a commitment to innovation that will "move us to the forefront of safety, connectivity and clean technology," the company’s top executive told shareholders.

"One look under the hood of the new Corvette will tell you it’s not old-fashioned Detroit iron," chairman and chief executive officer Dan Akerson said at the company’s annual meeting. "The Stingray uses advanced lightweight materials like carbon fiber, sophisticated engine management technologies and incredible attention to detail to generate performance."

The Detroit-based automaker’s research and development team has "recaptured their entrepreneurial spirit," he said. "We have brilliant scientists working for us. GM was ranked No. 1 in the Patent Board’s list of innovators in the automotive and transportation industry for seven consecutive quarters."

Commercializing the research has posed a challenge, but "that has changed faster than I imagined possible," Akerson said.

GM has adopted new strategies to drive its investments in start-up and early stage companies. "We are already building vehicles using new GM-invented and patent-protected aluminum spot-welding technology," Akerson said, by way of an example. "This innovation saves weight, cuts material costs and reduces capital investment by eliminating the need to use rivets when building aluminum hoods and doors."

The products GM launched last year were "just a tip of the spear," he said. "As I speak, the first all-new full-size pickup trucks (by) GM in six years are arriving in dealer showrooms across North America. Not only are the new Chevrolet Silverado and the GMC Sierra more capable and luxury-car quiet, our new V8 engines offer superior towing and fuel economy. The all-new Cadillac CTS is some 200 pounds lighter than a comparable BMW 5-Series."

Akerson said the biggest challenges are material costs, complexity and quality. "They’re all interconnected, they are all in our ability to control, and this leadership team will stay resolute in our determination to address and fix them."

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