DEARBORN, MI – General Motors and Ford, a pair of global rivals but occasional technology partners, announce a unique collaboration aimed at preserving automotive history and advancing science, technology, engineering and math education.
The Gallery by General Motors will be a flexible exhibit at The Henry Ford and its Museum of American Innovation here. It is anchored through March 2018 by The Science Behind Pixar, a showcase of interactive STEM concepts used by the artists and computer scientists who help create Pixar films such as the famous Toy Story series.
GM’s support of the exhibition space is backed by a $5 million donation from the automaker to the museum, which documents, preserves and educates generations of visitors from its site just a stone’s throw from Ford world headquarters and R&D facilities.
“Our country and our industry can appreciate two fierce competitors coming together,” says Mark Reuss, executive vice president-Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain at GM.
“The Henry Ford is a national treasure,” he adds. “It’s a special place.”
In an industry of closely guarded business strategies and technical development, it is relatively rare for two automakers, especially mainstream ones like GM and Ford, to collaborate. But the two have a technical track record, most recently around a pair of fuel-saving transmissions, and often walk in lockstep around major community projects and charitable giving in metropolitan Detroit.
Reuss, for example, serves on The Henry Ford Board of Trustees.
“There have been ties between the two companies, on and off, but it’s been a long time since we’ve done something this big together,” Reuss says.
Patricia Mooradian, president and CEO at The Henry Ford, recalls the seeds of the collaboration when Edsel Ford II extended a lunch invitation to Reuss to discuss the potential for a joint community project.
Soon after the initial meeting, Edsel Ford, great-grandson of Ford founder Henry Ford and a member of the automaker’s board of directors, visited the GM Heritage Center of classic cars and artifacts near GM’s metro Detroit technical center. That meeting paved the way for their partnership in Dearborn.
“This is an historic gift,” Mooradian says, admitting there were “a few raised eyebrows” at the first meetings between the competitors.
The Gallery by General Motors will give the automaker a chance to open its historical collection to a broader audience. GM often displays portions of its artifacts at its world headquarters in Detroit, but access to the GM Heritage Center is restricted to private events.
GM’s new presence at The Henry Ford also underscores the automaker’s commitment to STEM education, a field of study widely critical to the auto industry. The GM Foundation has donated nearly $1 billion to U.S. charities, educational organizations and disaster relief worldwide since 1976. But in 2016 the automaker began shifting its U.S. foundation giving to promote global economic growth through STEM education.
“The museum is known for lots of things over many years that have centered on the beginning of industry in America, the creation of the middle class and the great migration north,” Reuss says. “Innovation drove that, creating things and making things. So the STEM piece of this will fuel that in the future.”
Reuss declines to elaborate on exactly what sort of exhibitions to expect from GM, but the racing enthusiast hints coyly, “It could have something to do with motorsports.”