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GM, worried about market disruption, has an eye on Tesla

General Motors has created a team to study electric car maker Tesla -- high irony considering GM was one of the pioneers of the moden electric car.

Tesla Model S. GM, which practically invented the modern electric car, now sees Tesla as a threat.
Tesla Model S. GM, which practically invented the modern electric car, now sees Tesla as a threat. Tesla

General Motors is concerned enough about Tesla's competitive threat that it has formed a committee to study the budding electric-car upstart.

GM Chief Executive Dan Akerson has created a small team to study Tesla, according to a Bloomberg report.

Akerson "thinks Tesla could be a big disrupter if we're not careful," a GM executive is quoted as saying.

This could be seen as highly ironic in light of the fact that General Motors practically invented the modern electric car -- its ill-fated EV1, which was the subject of the popular documentary "Who Killed the Electric Car?"

"This is the same GM that once nurtured, and then killed, a $1 billion program to develop an electric car called the EV1," wrote Forbes contributor Micheline Maynard.

GM, of course, has the Volt -- a plug-in hybrid (GM refers to it as an extended-range electric vehicle or E-REV) with a range of about 40 miles on electric power and another 300 to 400 miles on the range-extender gas engine. And the Cadillac ELR -- essentially a luxury version of the Volt -- is coming in 2014.

Then there's the Chevy Spark Electric, which is just beginning to arrive at dealers. This is GM's first all-electric since the EV-1 and has a range of about 80 miles.

The Tesla Model S, of course, is a pure electric car: its highest capacity battery pack delivers a range of 300 miles.

Tesla topped the Volt in sales in the first quarter of the year, for the first time, edging out GM by about 300 vehicles.

"GM can probably save the team's time and money, because Tesla is a competitive threat," wrote Maynard.