Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thinking about US Car Makers Tonight ...

... and how their fate might impact DOD in the energy/transportation sector. Word from Capitol Hill at the end of the day is that the CEOs were sent packing without the bailout deals they sought. I like that congress pushed back and basically said, "hey, you don't even have a plan for what you'd do with the money." So GM et al get to go back to Detroit and think up something smart mighty fast ... and not the usual SUV stuff or no one's going to buy it. For an outstanding analysis of the situation, with some keen comparisons to other times and industries, see this article from the Cleantech Blog's John Addison.

I know that the Army does a lot of great work in Warren, MI, just north of Detroit, in an org called the Tank Automotive Research and Development Engineering Center (TARDEC). One of their latest projects is called a Fuel Efficient Ground Vehicle Demonstrator (FED) using an approach inspired in part by the "Monster Garage"show. But the Army isn't innovating to win a reality show or even new customers. And it's not trying to maximize profits. Rather, its motives are mission based, as you can't be an effective rapid-tempo fighting force if a lack of fuel is always slowing you down ... or worse.

My guess is there's a lot of cross pollination and partnering in the vehicles ecosystem in Michigan. Seems like a reversal of stereotypes is occurring: the commercial companies in question have a lot to learn about business from the government ... in this case, an innovating, imaginative US Army.

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