GM Powertrain Name Change Sets Precedence

The switch to GM Global Propulsion Systems exemplifies an industry undergoing tremendous transformation, driven by heightened regulatory demands and a splintering of traditional vehicle segments.

James M. Amend, Senior Editor

February 17, 2016

2 Min Read
GM Global Propulsion Systems better conveys unitrsquos work executives say
GM Global Propulsion Systems better conveys unit’s work, executives say.

General Motors will change the name of its powertrain engineering group, a shift reflecting the industry’s rapid expansion beyond the traditional combination of an internal-combustion engine and stepped-gear transmission to alternative forms of propulsion such as battery-electric vehicles.

GM Powertrain, a 24-year-old moniker that had become as common to engineering circles as the slide rule, becomes GM Global Propulsion Systems to encompass the 8,600 global employees at the automaker designing, developing and engineering propulsion units and controls for its products.

“The new name is another step on our journey to redefine transportation and mobility,” says Mark Reuss, executive vice president-Global Product Development at GM.

“Global Propulsion Systems better conveys what we are developing and offering to our customers: an incredibly broad, diverse lineup – ranging from high-tech 3-cyl. gasoline engines to fuel cells, V-8 diesel engines to battery electric systems, and 6-, 7-, 8-, 9- and 10-speed to continuously variable transmissions,” he says in a statement.

The name change sets a precedence in an industry undergoing tremendous transformation, driven by heightened regulatory demands and a splintering of traditional vehicle segments as customer wants and needs diversify.

GM and crosstown rival Ford most publicly have declared shifts in their business models to become mobility providers rather than just designers and manufacturers of cars and trucks. GM so far this year has added a car-sharing unit to its suite of brands, and Ford has pledged to double down on its autonomous-vehicle R&D.

The sudden rise of EV-maker Tesla has shaken up the industry, too, and automakers are working more closely together today than before to drive down costs in the new mobility world.

However, product and technology will remain the chief ingredient to their business and few places within an automaker are busier on that front than powertrain, GM Vice President Dan Nicholson told WardsAuto earlier this year.

“History is being made as we speak,” said Nicholson, who oversees the shift to GM Propulsion from GM Powertrain. “The next 10 years will be full of exciting churn and change.”

Announcing GM Propulsion, Nicholson says the days of independently designing a gasoline engine and transmission to meet customer expectations are gone.

“Today’s customer is demanding unprecedented technology integration that requires unprecedented engineering and supplier partnerships,” he says. “The diversity of our propulsion systems requires a name that reflects what we are already working on and delivering to our customers. I believe this will establish an industry trend.”

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