General Motors' Defense Division Up and Running, Hires Army Veteran as President

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
general motors defense division up and running hires army veteran as president

Last year, news broke that General Motors was getting back into the defense business. The automaker had a slick new military fuel-cell concept and was in the process of setting up GM Defense LLC in Washington, D.C.

It’s now one year later and the automaker has appointed retired Maj. Gen. John Charlton as the subsidiary’s new president. He will report to GM Defense CEO Charlie Freese, a 15-year GM veteran and fuel cell technology expert. The unit’s stated goal is to focus upon “helping GM better anticipate and react to the diverse needs of global aerospace and defense customers.” But it’s also bringing the automaker back into mil-spec work for the first time since 2003, when it sold everything it had to General Dynamics for a cool $1.1 billion.

According to Automotive News, Charlton spent a 34 years with the U.S. Army, which included three combat tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. He also held command positions at every level and various senior staff positions on the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.

However, his final role in the Army’s Test and Evaluation Command will be the most useful for General Motors. Despite being flush with cash, the military is pretty choosy about where it spends its money. New designs have to be tested and vetted before any branch dumps its vast fortune into a new contract. Charlton will have inside knowledge of that process, as well as the types of things the military would be looking for.

From Automotive News:

GM Defense initially is expected to focus on military and aerospace applications for GM’s emerging fuel cell technologies, including a fuel cell-powered Chevrolet Colorado known as the ZH2 and the Silent Utility Rover Universal Superstructure platform.

In June, GM announced an exclusive deal with Liebherr-Aerospace of France to develop a hydrogen fuel cell-powered auxiliary power unit for aircraft applications. An auxiliary power unit typically powers an aircraft’s lighting, air conditioning, backup systems and other auxiliary functions.

There were also rumors that the automaker is in discussions to purchase AM General. However, it’s one of several companies believed to be vying for what looks to be a very expensive property.

While GM will continue to supply the military with engines and transmissions, the new defense arm is expected to sake things up by expanding into vehicle designs with alternative powertrains — as well as cyber security and autonomous vehicle technologies. “This new business structure will enhance GM’s productivity, agility and affordability in a very dynamic customer environment,” Freese said in 2017. “Our goal is to make it simpler and more seamless to do business with General Motors.”

GM Defense exists as part of the automaker’s Global Product Development arm, led by Mark Reuss, GM’s vice president of Global Product Development.

[Image: General Motors]

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  • NeilM NeilM on Oct 08, 2018

    You'd think that General Dynamics would have extracted a non-compete as part of their purchase from GM. Apparently not.

  • John John on Oct 08, 2018

    It does look like GM will either buy out AM general or do a joint venture with Navistar Defense. It's not out of the question, since GM and Navistar already are cooperating on the new Chevy 4500, 5500 and likely a 6500 series medium trucks.

  • FreedMike I was lucky enough to grow up in a household with the two best German luxury sedans of the time - a manual '81 733i, and a '75 Mercedes 450SE. The BMW was a joy on back roads, and the Benz was a superb highway car. Good times. And both were dramatically better than the junkheap American luxury cars Dad had before.
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