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GM, Ford take separate Silicon Valley paths to gain edge in innovation, technology
Automotive News
September 1, 2013
by Paul Lienert

DETROIT (Reuters) -- General Motors and Ford Motor Co., trying to shake off decades of insularity, are looking to California's Silicon Valley and beyond for innovative ideas and technology that could disrupt and even transform the car business.

Yet neither company appears to know what such a transformation would look like, nor are they close to commercializing a new product or process that longtime Valley venture capitalists would consider game-changing.

While the two automakers are looking at a similar range of advanced technologies, from Internet and mobile connectivity and infotainment to self-driving cars, GM is spending heavily; Ford is not.

Following the practice refined in Silicon Valley, northern California's traditional hotbed of innovation, GM established a corporate venture capital group in 2010.

Now it is providing critical early-stage funding to entrepreneurs and offering to be the first customer to startups in a wide variety of sectors, from advanced materials to alternate fuels.

Ford folded its corporate venture arm 10 years ago, having been an early investor in satellite radio pioneer Sirius and other tech startups.

These days it is more cautious, favoring partnerships over ownership and focusing primarily on technologies that enable or enhance what it calls "the next-generation consumer experience in the vehicle" -- shorthand for a consolidation of mobile apps and advanced electronics in cars.

The automaker still may benefit from venture capital, if somewhat indirectly.

Executive Chairman Bill Ford has his own private VC firm, Fontinalis Partners.

Based in downtown Detroit and managed by former Ford executive Mark Schulz, the fund's investments are focused on "transportation technologies of tomorrow," according to its website, including some that presumably could find their way into Ford vehicles.

Article continued at link.
 

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Regarding the remark on GM spending more than Ford in technology, this is typical of the culture of both. GM wants to be on top, where Ford is more conservative with partnerships, etc. We see that in everything GM does. The Volt is an example of that, where they once had nothing and suddenly threw billions into one basket. Look at Ford's approach.

I think stepping cautiously into new tech and products is smarter with less risk than diving in head first.
 
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