To Avoid Obsolescence, GM Keeps an Eye on Tesla

103-year-old General Motors is preparing for the future.

To Avoid Obsolescence, GM Keeps an Eye on Tesla

General Motors CEO Dan Akerson has his eye on Tesla, and has assigned a small team to study the electric car maker–and its potential threat to GM.

“History is littered with big companies that ignored innovation that was coming their way because you didn’t know where you could be disrupted,” GM vice chairman Steve Girsky told Bloomberg.

In a battle of electric cars, the Tesla Model S outsold the Chevy Volt in the first quarter. Akerson sees the potential of Tesla, which recently announced it would triple the size of its Supercharger network, to “impact our organization,” Girsky said. “It may not be in his lifetime here, but it will be in somebody’s lifetime. And we need to be prepared.”

While making note of Tesla’s innovations, GM slashed R&D spending by 9.3% to $7.37 billion in 2012. Despite the size of its research efforts, many of the company’s patents have not been commercialized in its cars.

We’ve reached out to GM for comment and will update this post if we hear back.

[Image: Chevrolet]

About the author

Based in San Francisco, Alice Truong is Fast Company's West Coast correspondent. She previously reported in Chicago, Washington D.C., New York and most recently Hong Kong, where she (left her heart and) worked as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal.