GM CEO Dan Akerson Talks Sustainability at Fortune Conference

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GM CEO Dan Akerson Talks Sustainability at Fortune Conference

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Friday, May 3, 2013 - 1:00pm

CAMPAIGN: GM Energy Efficiency


In a format reminiscent of a fireside chat, GM CEO Dan Akerson sat with Fortune Magazine’s Geoff Colvin to talk environment and the future of sustainable mobility. The session was part of the Fortune Brainstorm Green annual conference, which gathers CEOs and global sustainability leaders to share best practices and discuss the role business can play in achieving sustainability solutions to various global issues.

Here we highlight a few snippets from the conversation, or you can visit the Fortune site for the full transcript.

On meeting CAFE standards:

  • We have to look at alternate propulsion, not only in electrification but compressed natural gas, biofuels, diesel, hydrogen fuel cells, we’re looking at all that and pursuing it aggressively.  And, at the same time, we’re trying to use advanced technologies to lighten the car, make it more efficient.”

On lightweighting vehicles:

  • “For example, the new Corvette ‑‑ which for those of you that don’t have one, you should lust for it ‑‑ it’s comprised of carbon fiber, nanotechnology and fiberglass.  And when you look at it, we not only lightened it, we dropped the center of gravity.  We put in all the new technology in stability and control and brakes that only Ferraris have.  And so we have a better car that makes mileage that when it’s cruising, it’s making 26 miles a gallon.  This is a car with a big engine, so how do you do that?  You go in and you look at the basic thermodynamics and physics that underpins the gas combustion engine, and you look at everything from cylinder deactivation, direct injection, variable valve timing and turbos.  And you don’t see those types of technologies unless you get to the $80,000 and $90,000 European imports.”

On helping transform the industry:

  • “You have to get down and really reengineer from the ground up.”

On the Volt:

  • “And this car, I have one, I own it, this isn’t a company car.  I’ve had it for about a year-and-a-half.  We have 10,000 miles on it and I haven’t put 10 gallons of gas in it.”
  • “This car, ladies and gentlemen, is on a technology scale off the charts versus what you’ve seen.  And people don’t really understand what a great car it is.  But, essentially, think about the marketing and the market application here, 80 percent of Americans drive 40 miles or less per day, 80 percent of Americans drive 40 miles or less per day.”
  • “This is an EREV, Extended Range Electric Vehicle.  So, if you have to drive from here to Portland and back you can do it.  If you want to drive around town, you’ll probably be on a charge all the time.” 

On an energy policy:  

  • “I think we have a moment in time to really change the calculus for this country on so many dimensions. […] And subsequently no president, no political leadership in this country has articulated a national energy policy, and ladies and gentlemen, our competition is.  And our competition isn’t in this country.  It’s globally.”

On natural gas:

  • “Our energy industry is built around oil.  It’s going to have to transform and there has to be an integrated, national policy where there’s political leadership that brings the manufacturing and the energy industry together. “

On sustainability: 

  • “Sustainability is woven into our global strategies.  It is what will sustain this company over the longer term.”

On landfill-free plants:

  • “How many of you put trash out at the curbside this week to be picked up?  Anybody put a bag out there?  Well, you all just filled and polluted the earth more than 105 plants of General Motors.”

On renewable energy:  

  • “Three of our plants in the U.S. produce anywhere from 17 to 25 percent of their total energy needs from landfill methane gas that we pump in and use it.  And two out of the five largest solar arrays in the world are General Motors’.


Keywords: Environment & Climate Change | Dan Akerson | Fortune Brainstorm Green | sustainability

CAMPAIGN: GM Energy Efficiency