"When I came in, we did not know the product profitability of a model within Chevrolet," said Akerson, who became CEO in 2010 two months before GM went public. "Now we have the profitability right down to the car by VIN number. When I look back on it, I marvel at what we were able to do in my term, because it was not easy."
The implementation of such programs has allowed GM to better concentrate on its future and "transportation as a service," while many of its rivals, including Ford Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp., have more recently announced investments in IT operations and data storage.
"I look at mobility and IT as conduits for each other," said Kristin Schondorf, executive director of automotive and transportation mobility at EY, the consulting firm formerly known as Ernst & Young. "IT is important as you start to become a service organization. It becomes very critical."
This month, Ford broke ground on a $200 million advanced data center in Michigan to support the company's "expansion to an auto and mobility company and expected dramatic increase in data storage needs," it said in a statement. The investment is in addition to a data center that's part of a multiyear investment at its Dearborn, Mich., headquarters, for which the company has declined to provide a dollar amount.
Last year, Toyota opened a data-harvesting startup in Texas called Toyota Connected, in connection with what it called a "global cloud ecosystem" and "mobility services platform." The company manages global cloud services — which incorporate networks of remote servers to transfer, store and process data — for Toyota.
Many of GM's decisions in recent years, data-driven or not, have done little to drum up enthusiasm for the company on Wall Street. Mott and others hope the IT operations help change that.