This position is global chief technology officer (CTO), and it has been filled by vice chairman Thomas G. Stephens, to head up the spot. The General describes the role of CTO like this:
Stephens will strengthen the company's technology vision and focus, working across the global organization to anticipate and deliver innovation for customers in each market. His primary role is to seek creative solutions and game-changing technologies to help GM shape the automotive future, leveraging internal and external partnerships to benefit customers today and tomorrow.
Stephens responded to his appointment as CTO in a statement, stating:
Today's cars and trucks are technology on wheels. I'm excited about working with the GM team in new ways and focusing my energy to keep us on the leading edge of automotive innovation.
However, there appears to be a backstory behind GM's selection of Stephens as CTO. Stephens, it seems, has not been a fan of GM's high-tech Chevrolet Volt. Motofinity reports that Stephens tried to kill off the Volt on more than one occasion and actually pushed for the development of a two-mode plug-in hybrid instead of the Volt's complicated powertrain. GM's chief executive officier Dan Akerson touts the Voltec architecture and wants production of the Volt cranked up immediately. Motofinity claims that appointing Stephens as GM's CTO removes him and his anti-Volt attitude from direct product responsibility and paves the way for Akerson to assign the "leader of his choosing." Automotive News (sub. req.) says that:
Stephens' appointment highlights Akerson's fixation on improving fuel economy through innovations such as the Chevrolet Volt's plug-in hybrid powertrain.
GM Establishes Global Chief Technology Officer
Vice Chairman Thomas G. Stephens to Lead Technology Development
DETROIT – In a move to bring greater focus and urgency to developing leading edge technology for all General Motors vehicles, the company today named Thomas G. Stephens its new Global Chief Technology Officer (CTO).
"Customers today expect and deserve the very best technology from their GM vehicles," said GM Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson. "Tom will make sure that GM technology keeps up with our customers and keeps ahead of our competitors."
The new CTO position is a major element of Akerson's goal to make the company more customer driven and technology focused. In December, Akerson elevated Joel Ewanick to Global Chief Marketing Officer, responsible for GM's brands globally.
As GM vice chairman and Chief Technology Officer, Stephens will strengthen the company's technology vision and focus, working across the global organization to anticipate and deliver innovation for customers in each market. His primary role is to seek creative solutions and game-changing technologies to help GM shape the automotive future, leveraging internal and external partnerships to benefit customers today and tomorrow. Stephens also will be responsible for the company's research and development organization led by GM vice president Alan Taub.
"Today's cars and trucks are technology on wheels," said Stephens. "I'm excited about working with the GM team in new ways and focusing my energy to keep us on the leading edge of automotive innovation."
Stephens most recently was vice chairman, Global Product Operations. Over his 42-year career, he has held a number of key positions, including vice president of Engineering in both the former GM Powertrain organization and GM Truck Group, vice president of Vehicle Integration and executive vice president of Global Powertrain and Global Quality. Early in his career, Stephens was assistant chief engineer of the Cadillac Northstar engine, and plant manager of the Livonia Engine Plant. Based on his broad experience and expertise, he was elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering, for his leadership role in the development of automotive powertrains with improved performance, fuel efficiency, and lower emissions.
Stephens, 62, will continue to report to Akerson and remains on the company's Executive Committee. His move becomes effective on Feb. 1.
A successor for Stephens in Global Product Development will be announced soon.