G.M. Ventures, the new venture capital division of General Motors Company, announced its first funding effort with a $5 million infusion to Bright Automotive. The Indiana based start up is building the Idea, a commercial plug-in hybrid van similar to the conventional gas Ford E-150 and the G.M. Express and Savana vans.
In June General Motors Company devoted $100 million to the new funding arm. That announcement was covered at Car News Break. At the time G.M. said that their commitment to innovative vehicle theory would include the availability of their testing facilities and technology portfolio. The completion of agreements would give G.M. a minority position in Bright which would then have access to those strategic assets.
Speaking with Aftermarket Business, Jon Lauckner President of G.M. Ventures said: “Funding early-stage start-up companies is a new way of doing business at GM to accelerate the introduction of innovative technology to support our core automotive business and give us a competitive advantage.”
In funding Bright Automotive, G.M. Ventures joins Duke Energy, Google.org, Alcoa and The Turner Foundation in an effort to bring “tangible solutions to business in America.” The Idea is Bright’s first vehicle solution. It is scheduled to debut in 2013 or 2014 and is promising 100-mpg from the Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV). The vehicle is able to reach this goal, according to a company video because it is aerodynamic, slippery and lightweight.
Bright’s target market allows the company to have maximum impact both environmentally and competitively. The market for the commercial van is thought to be 900,000 units per year. Bright’s plan is to produce 50,000 per year. The Bright website states that “a fleet of 250,000 Ideas will save 30 million tons of CO2 and 2.8 billion gallons of fuel over their 150,000 mile life cycle.”
So while G.M. Ventures may be staying true to their mission of supporting cutting edge automotive technology, they may also be seen to be hedging their bets as they partner with a competitor in the commercial market. Bright will in turn be utilizing G.M.’s resources to the mutual benefit of both companies.
“With this deal, Bright gets financial support that puts us on the fast-track toward mass production of the IDEA. And perhaps just as importantly, we gain a strategic partner that is a world leader in electrification,” said Reuben Munger, Bright Automotive Chairman and CEO. G.M. Ventures first funding experience may turn out to be well placed.