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Chevy’s Volt Innovator Leaves for California Battery Startup

GM just can’t seem to catch a break. After billions of dollars in losses and rumors that the prized electric Chevy Volt won’t make it into production (now proven false), the auto giant’s so-called “battery czar” has announced that she is leaving for an unidentified California battery startup.

Denise Gray, the director of global battery systems engineering at GM, is leaving on March 5 for a senior management position at the as yet unnamed battery company. Green Car Reports explains:

What led Gray to leave the only company she’d ever worked for? “The opportunity to create and build and plant seeds and mold and shape an organization,” she said–just as she was able to do with the small Volt team. And in a theme common to many professionals who’ve left solid jobs to join startups, she said simply, “I didn’t want to look back and say, ‘I could have, I should have …’ “

This is great news for Gray’s new venture, but not such good news for GM. Gray spent 30 years at the company and was largely responsible for overseeing the development of batteries for GM’s hybrid and all-electric vehicles. When she began at the battery systems group, it had 25 employees. Now it has over 200.

But really, who can blame Gray for leaving? California has a glut of exciting new auto startups–Tesla, Fisker, and Better Place, just to name a few–while Detroit is in the unfortunate position of having 25% of young professionals planning to leave the city within the next two years. It’s not the most inspirational environment, even as auto companies like Johnson Controls and A123 Systems set up shop in the area. If major automakers want to retain their Detroit-based talent, they will have to start getting creative.

[Via Green Car Reports]

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