TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- The Chevrolet Bolt has drawn considerable media attention, but the supplier deals General Motors forged to build it may prove equally important.
GM relied on two South Korean suppliers -- LG Chem and LG Electronics -- to produce a large part of the Bolt, including the battery, electric motors, powertrain electronics and infotainment system.
To coax those and other suppliers to share their technology, GM let them retain control of their intellectual property, said GM purchasing chief Steve Kiefer, who spoke Wednesday at the CAR Management Briefing Seminars.
“We took a revolutionary approach to the supply base,” Kiefer said. “The technology is coming from nontraditional suppliers, and we had to change the way we did business with them.”
Kiefer said the new approaches could spread to future vehicle programs.
GM further upped the ante when it decided to produce an autonomous version of the Bolt. The automaker formed partnerships with a number of startups to develop software and hardware for the self-driving vehicle.
The autonomous Bolt is undergoing road tests in San Francisco; Scottsdale, Ariz.; and suburban Detroit. Kiefer said GM built an initial batch of 50 autonomous Bolts by hand, plus 130 more on the assembly line of GM’s plant in Orion Township, Mich.
After his presentation, Kiefer told Automotive News that the supply contracts he negotiated for the Bolt could be precedents for future car programs.
If so, the Bolt program offers more evidence that Kiefer is determined to improve GM’s relations with suppliers. On Wednesday, he confirmed that GM has negotiated long-term contracts with suppliers for GM’s next-generation pickups and full-size SUVs.
GM first tried that for its current full-size trucks, and Kiefer said it worked well.
The new contracts will last for two product cycles, or 10 or 12 years. That will allow suppliers to amortize their investment in tooling and product development, Kiefer said.