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GM to hire 3,000 for tech jobs as part of EV push

Kalea Hall
The Detroit News

Detroit — General Motors Co. plans to hire 3,000 employees in engineering, design and IT to help push forward as a leading electric vehicle maker and to develop more in-car connected technologies, the automaker said Monday. 

GM is battling its Silicon Valley competition for talent to be able to achieve its mantra of zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion, and to provide connected software that puts them ahead of the competition.

GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra is leading the company toward an electric future.

“As we evolve and grow our software expertise and services, it’s important that we continue to recruit and add diverse talent,” said GM President Mark Reuss. "This will clearly show that we’re committed to further developing the software we need to lead in EVs, enhance the customer experience and become a software expertise-driven workforce."

Now through the first quarter of 2021, GM will have job openings for electrical system engineers; infotainment software engineers; developers for Java, Android, iOS and other platforms; controls engineers; and other positions to build on GM’s current software foundation.

Job listings are posted at GM's career site.

Ken Morris, GM's vice president of electric and autonomous vehicle programs, said during a Monday call that many of the jobs will involve work on the automaker's new Ultium platform for electric vehicles, and on the development of autonomous technology. The job opportunities will be remote, he said, giving GM more access to talent. 

Like many other automakers, GM is trying to be the first to market with an electric truck while it also commercializes its electric and fuel-cell technologies, and works to lower the cost of these future vehicles. The automaker is leveraging the success of profit-rich products, especially trucks, to accelerate electric vehicle investment. The automaker expects its annual capital spending to exceed $7 billion through at least 2023 to help accelerate its expensive electric vehicle investments.  

The pandemic hasn't put a damper on GM's electric-vehicle plans. It has pulled forward two major electric vehicle programs since its March EV Day, but Morris wouldn't say which ones. The announcement to hire additional tech talent is yet another "proof point," he added, of GM "doing what we said we were going to do." 

Stephanie Brinley, principal automotive analyst for IHS Markit, said the hiring shows "this is important to us; this matters."

Beyond electric vehicles, GM is also hiring to enhance its connected software offerings like OnStar, a vehicle safety and security system, and Super Cruise, GM's self-driving vehicle technology. Having expert software developers is crucial to GM's Vehicle Intelligence Platform, which supports new active safety, infotainment, connectivity and the Super Cruise driver assistance feature, as well as over-the-air updates.

"The electric vehicle part of it is important but I think the investment in software as a service is the portion that is meant to enable a new revenue stream for General Motors," Brinley said. "Frankly, selling electric vehicles rather than selling internal combustion engines is still selling vehicles. It's not a new revenue stream."

Vehicles are becoming increasingly driven by software, Morris said, "because that's what customers want and enjoy."

GM is moving forward with its electric-vehicle investments despite a pandemic and a change in leadership at the White House. President-elect Joe Biden is expected to put more emphasis on helping to expand electric vehicle adoption than the Trump administration. 

"We're looking forward to working with the Biden administration and support policies that will foster greater adoption of EVs across all 50 states and encourage investments in R&D and manufacturing," Morris said. 

In October, GM unveiled a $112,595 Hummer EV that will be built at the newly named Factory Zero Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Center, one of GM's three planned electric vehicle factories. The automaker has tapped its Spring Hill, Tennessee, assembly plant as the third electric vehicle factory. After a $2 billion investment, Spring Hill will build the Cadillac Lyriq, an electric crossover, as well as gas-powered vehicles. 

Meanwhile, GM is promoting its technology in the market to get other companies interested in it. GM and Honda Motor Co., which are forming a strategic alliance in North America for product development and purchasing, will build electric vehicles for Honda together. The vehicles will be based on GM's electric platform and with its Ultium batteries. 

GMC Hummer EV

During an earnings call last week, GM said Mary Barra said the company is still in discussions with Nikola Corp. for a partnership to build electric and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles together. 

To help with commercialization and lowering the cost of batteries, and potentially the overall vehicle, GM is building a battery-cell manufacturing operation in northeast Ohio with LG Chem.

Barra stressed that GM is continuing to look for opportunities to commercialize both its Ultium electric-vehicle technology and Hydrotec hydrogen fuel-cell technology — moves that reflect GM's "commitment to a zero-emissions future." 

khall@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @bykaleahall