GM Topples PR, R&D Heads

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

GM’s heads of public relations, Steve Harris, and research and development, Larry Burns, have announced their retirements today. Automotive News [sub] spins the move as a “shakeup,” but notes that Harris was already on a contract extension. Burns, meanwhile, is burned at the stake as a hydrogen advocate. Despite Burns’s $1b hydrogen initiative of 2002, “the goal of an economically viable fuel cell vehicle by 2010 foundered on the lack of a national hydrogen fueling system,” notes AN. And as goes the political system, so goes GM. Meanwhile, Group Vice President and General Counsel Bob Osborne also announced he was returning to private practice, while former president of North American operations, Troy Clarke, is still at GM with no job title.

Burns will be replaced by the current executive director of R&D, Alan Taub. He will oversee the integration of GM’s global R&D and product development operations. Harris (formerly of AMC and Chrysler) had joined GM in 2006, agreeing to leave retirement for 18-24 months. That period had been extended to the end of 2008. His replacement, Chris Preuss, is currently VP in charge of GM Europe’s communications.

Edward Niedermeyer
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  • Christy Garwood Christy Garwood on Jul 16, 2009

    All, I must disclose that I am a GM Employe. @ Lokkii "JAMAICA, New York - Shell today opened its second hydrogen filling station in the greater New York City area, providing improved access to hydrogen for drivers of fuel cell Chevrolet Equinoxes participating in Project Driveway. Project Driveway selects consumers who sign up on the Internet in the greater New York City, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. to participate for two months at a time in the demonstration. Shell will open a third third station this summer in the Bronx in conjunction with the New York City Department of Sanitation. Shell hydrogen station in White Plains has been operating there for more than a year, making up Shell's first cluster of hydrogen filling stations. The station opening Tuesday at JFK International Airport is a partnership between Shell, General Motors Co., the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and the US Department of Energy." @ charly The US Gov't has been funding hydrogen fuel cell use in passenger vehicles since at least 1990, probably before. In 1990 I was a buyer at GM's Allison Gas Turbine Division in Indpls and assisted in developing a response to a US RFQ (request for quote) for a 1/4 scale working model of a hydrogen fuel cell powered car. Just my personal speculation, but I would think that GM has probably received funds from the US Gov't in the development of hydrogen fuel cells, along with other US automotive manufacturers.

  • Christy Garwood Christy Garwood on Jul 16, 2009

    RE: coup d'tat Burns has worked at GM for forty years, so he is probably just retiring because it is time to do so. All of us here at GM are also waiting for the big shakeup. In Fritz's July 10 news conference, he clearly stated that it won't be ready for full disclosure until the end of July. And Fritz also stated that 35% of 1300 execs will be cut this year. (Bloomberg 7/7/09) The Burns and Harris anouncements are the start of the cut.

  • Lokkii Lokkii on Jul 16, 2009

    @ ChristyGarwood Fair enough points... and I accept them. I still tend to believe that my "Great Leap Forward" hypothesis is valid though. Further as a Corporate guy myself, I understand that, even at Mr. Burn's level, he's not really driving the train alone. Finally, if it was indeed a billion tax dollars rather than GM resources that were used, I concede GM would have been very foolish not to accept the funding and study the possibilities.

  • Matt51 Matt51 on Jul 16, 2009

    Someone at GM should have had the balls to say fuel cells are bullshit. And not wasted the governments (our) tax dollars. Taking money just because it is there is wrong.