General Motors establishing new military defense division

DETROIT — General Motors plans to establish a new defense industry unit as it seeks to grow its business with the U.S. military, Automotive News has learned.

The company said last week it is holding talks with the U.S. Army about adopting the company's new hydrogen fuel cell platform for military use, and has other defense projects in the works.

GM Defense LLC is expected to become part of the company's Global Product Development organization, marking a major return to defense work after selling a previous defense unit to General Dynamics Corp. for $1.1 billion in 2003. Anticipating needs

The operations, according to officials, will be focused on "helping GM better anticipate and react to the diverse needs of global aerospace and defense customers."

"This new business structure will enhance GM's productivity, agility and affordability in a very dynamic customer environment," said Charlie Freese, executive director of GM Global Fuel Cell Business, in an emailed statement to Automotive News. "Our goal is to make it simpler and more seamless to do business with General Motors."

Freese will oversee GM Defense as part of Global Product Development, which is led by Mark Reuss, GM vice president of Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain. The company has not determined where the defense unit will be based, said GM spokeswoman Elizabeth Winter.

GM currently provides powertrain components such as engines and transmissions to the military, but of late it has expanded its potential military offerings. The automaker has at least three hydrogen fuel cell products under evaluation by U.S. military divisions, including the new commercial platform with autonomous capabilities.

GM said last week that it is in discussions with the Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center about the Silent Utility Rover Universal Superstructure (SURUS) platform. The company said SURUS could be "a next step of the broader collaboration to evaluate fuel cell technology for future military applications."

Winter declined to disclose details of the discussions.

"The platform is still in development," she wrote in an email. "We do not confirm timings or details of future product."

In addition to the fuel cell-powered, four-wheel concept, the Army has been testing a fuel cell-powered Chevrolet Colorado known as the ZH2 on U.S. bases since April. The U.S. Navy last year also unveiled a GM fuel cell-powered unmanned undersea vehicle for testing.

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