General Motors is moving past layoffs and the Motor City’s rusty, low-tech image. It’s setting out on its own to develop software and invent the most advanced gizmos for your car.
The nation’s biggest automaker plans to hire up to 10,000 computer professionals in the next three-to-five years as it tries to lead the auto industry with cutting-edge technology.
It’s a bold and expensive move, counter to the industry’s history of buying software and other electronic applications from outside companies. Experts say it’s also the start of a trend as manufacturers realize that software is among the few things that will set them apart from competitors.
“The companies that build the software themselves in general are going to have an advantage,” says David Kirkpatrick, author of a book about Facebook and CEO of Techonomy Media Inc., a New York firm that specializes in setting up technology conferences. “If you outsource the development of software in particular to others, you can risk ... your own ability to compete in the future.”
General Motors Co. isn’t alone in trying to move more technology development under its roof. But the plans of its biggest competitor, Ford Motor Co., aren’t nearly as ambitious.
GM’s plan aims to bring 90 percent of its computer technology work into the company by recruiting workers to four new information technology centers around the nation. Ford recently joined GM, BMW AG and Renault-Nissan in opening a technology office in California’s Silicon Valley, although it’s staffed by only about 15 people.
GM’s first “Information Technology Innovation Center” was announced last month in Austin, Texas, with plans to hire 500 programmers and software experts. And Monday the carmaker unveiled plans to hire 1,500 more at a second computer center in Warren, Mich., on the campus of its big tech center. GM already has product designers, engineers and other technical experts at the site, including the team that created the Chevrolet Volt electric car.