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CEO wants GM to stay on top of innovation

General Motors Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Dan Akerson addresses the media before the start of GM’s Annual Meeting of Stockholders at GM’s Global Headquarters in Detroit, Michigan in this file photo taken June 12, 2012.

As General Motors chief executive Dan Akerson sees it, Tesla Motors has the potential to be a disruptive force to the automotive industry, and he doesn’t want to be caught off guard.

Akerson has assigned a small team to study billionaire industrialist Elon Musk’s upstart electric-car maker and how it might threaten the 104-year-old automaker’s business, said Steve Girsky, GM vice chairman.

“He thinks Tesla could be a big disrupter if we’re not careful,” Girsky said. “History is littered with big companies that ignored innovation that was coming their way.”

The approach is part of Akerson’s effort to change GM’s culture as he tries to push the automaker to move beyond its 2009 bankruptcy reorganization and make it the most profitable car company in the world. He has redirected research and development spending, focusing efforts on commercial applications, quickening implementation and investing money in startup companies that are developing cutting-edge technology.
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