DETROIT -- Fast is a good word to describe Dan Nicholson, who was promoted late last year to head General Motors’ powertrain operations worldwide.
He drives a fast car, a Camaro convertible.
He walks fast and he talks fast.
As vice president of GM global powertrain, Nicholson oversees one of the most complex aspects of the company’s business. Not only does he decide which technologies GM will invest in globally, but he manages powertrain manufacturing and quality, GM’s joint ventures with other companies, such as Ford and Honda, and he has to ensure GM is in compliance with global emissions and fuel economy standards.
Nicholson’s recent predecessors -- Tom Stephens, Sam Winegarden and Steve Keifer -- put in motion many of the strategies, technologies and powertrains GM is producing today, but Nicholson’s job in the years ahead will likely be tougher.
He has to ensure GM Powertrain does its part to improve the fuel economy of the company’s North American vehicles about 5 percent a year in order to reach the 2025 fleet average of 54.5 mpg target set by the U.S.
According to the EPA’s latest Fuel Economy Trends report, GM, at 22 mpg, ranks near the bottom in preliminary fuel economy ratings for the 2014 model year, compared with other full-line automakers, Ford, Fiat Chrysler, Toyota and Nissan.
When you ask Nicholson about different technologies, such as diesel engines, continuously variable transmissions and hybrids, he won’t tell you why they can’t be done, he’ll tell you where they might fit in GM’s lineup.
At 51, Nicholson is likely to be in charge of GM’s powertrain business for a while. And he just might be the perfect guy for the job. He holds master’s degrees in science in mechanical engineering and in business administration -- perhaps the best background to have these days for deciding which technologies to invest in.