GM to chase auto tech with VC arm

General Motors creates a $100 million fund to foster innovative auto technologies, betting that advanced tech will perk up sales.

General Motors has created a venture capital subsidiary to be headed by Jon Lauckner, one of the key executives behind the Chevy Volt, the company said Friday.

General Motors Ventures will initially be funded with $100 million and seek to find and develop innovative auto technologies, according to GM. Lauckner will start July 1 as president of the venture capital subsidiary.

An example of tech developed for the Volt: a lithium ion battery pack. Martin LaMonica/CNET

Creation of the subsidiary will allow the company to establish partnerships with venture capital companies investing in a range of auto-related technologies, a GM representative said.

With the Volt and other products, the company has made a bet that advanced technologies are its best chance of gaining customers and boosting sales. In addition to being the foundation for GM's electric powertrain technology, the Volt has a high-tech interior, sporting touch screen displays and controls inspired by consumer electronics.

The creation of the GM subsidiary could be good news for entrepreneurs and venture investors working on auto technologies.

GM brings with it more money, of course, which will be available to fund developments, such as more efficient gasoline engines or better components for electric vehicles. Having GM as investor also gives a small company access to GM's testing facilities and visibility into its manufacturing requirements.

Large companies, such as Intel and IBM, have venture capital arms and have effectively used them to fund and gain access to emerging technologies.

GM invested in a few cellulosic ethanol companies, including Coskata and Mascoma , although they have not yielded the results as fast as originally hoped.

 

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