To the general population, General Motors is little more than an umbrella name under which some of the most recognizable domestic brands were formed, and gain continual momentum. But once we step outside the normalcy of encountering Chevy, GM, Buick, and Cadillac on our daily commutes (or finding ourselves behind the wheel of them), it’s worth looking at their prevalence in other areas of our society.
Consider for a moment, the motion picture industry. Now, we’re not talking about the day-to-day mundanity of the industry itself, but through movies, we become increasingly family with the depiction of various GM vehicles as the transportation of choice employed by government, military and law enforcement alike. But this relationship isn’t merely a creation of the Hollywood establishment, it has a very factual basis in reality. GM held a long-term contract with the military that ran from 1950-2003, which created a long list of notorious defense vehicles. Servicemen and women, military and automotive enthusiasts might be the only ones to recognize names like the CUCV K5 Chevy Blazer, the K10/20/30 pickups, LSSV variants of the Chevy Tahoe and Silverado or the eight-wheeled, armored Stryker combat vehicle. Despite its longevity, that particular contract dissolved with the sale of the division. But nearly two decades later, GM is putting their hat back in the proverbial ring.
For those who keep up-to-date on current auto news, it was reported late last year that General Motors had created a new special division, called GM Defense LLC. At the time of the announcement, the division had already formed a relationship with both the U.S. Army and Navy, working on at least three active projects.
That said, a segment of our population might consider such a symbiosis to be negative, branding a defense contract as ‘war-mongering’ or simply criticizing the big dollar exchange in government contracts. However, this particular relationship has a very direct correlation to how GM vehicles may evolve in the years to come.
Claiming that GM Defense is “helping GM better anticipate and react to the diverse needs of global aerospace and defense customers,” the union will be integral in developing technologies with both military and everyday applications. Don’t believe us?
Meet SURUS, the Silent Utility Rover Universal Superstructure. Fully-autonomous, SURUS is a configurable vehicle designed so that it can be modified to meet every need from cargo hauler, to mobile hospital to command center. In its virgin state, it exists as a flat, motorized platform, upon which nearly any style of unit can be affixed. With nearly every automaker proclaiming a plan to offer an autonomous vehicle within the next few years, it’s fair to assume that any integration of this technology in a military application is key in achieving that goal. Who knows? In the customizable world that we live in, such a platform introduces some really innovative ideas about what the vehicles of tomorrow might hold in store. Of course, in that regard, we might be looking out too far…
Now consider the ZH2, GM Defense’ variant of the mid-size Chevrolet Colorado employed as an Army support vehicle. As with SURUS, the ZH2 is a silent-operation vehicle with no smells or emissions. Clearly applicable to combat situations, the idea of silent-running vehicles with no discernible exhaust smells, seems like the kind of technology that most would welcome in today’s hustle-and-bustle streets and highways. This is far more relevant to the evolving expectations of today’s drivers, most of whom have at least one eye firmly trained on matters of fuel economy and overall sustainability.
And herein lies the applicability of GM Defense LLC to our daily lives. It was reported, just over a month ago, that General Motors formal trademark application specified that the division’s focus would be on “motor land vehicles, namely, hydrogen-powered vehicles, fuel cell powered vehicles” etc. That said, public awareness of the big-dollar defense investment in the development and integration of these technologies paints an interesting picture considering that it will run parallel with the efforts of the rest of the automotive sector.
This falls in line with the statement made by Divisional overseer Charlie Freese last year, when he stated, “This. new business structure will enhance GM’s productivity, agility, and affordability in a very dynamic customer environment. Our goal is to make it simpler and more seamless to do business with General Motors. This is our commercial fuel cell solution that we think will save real-world, near-term problems.”
If you’re still skeptical, keep in mind that the vast majority of technological advances enjoyed by civilians originated from military applications. The perfect definition of ‘double-edged sword’ for any military critics, history continues to prove that constant advances in defense technology filters through to the private sector.
And really, what better domestic automaker than GM to position themselves as a point-person in such a process? Any in-depth look at the Chevy lineup alone proves General Motors’ inherent dedication to the affordable integration of technology. It seems odd that, halfway through 2018, we’re still seeing economy automakers struggle with the incorporation of Wi-Fi technology across all models and trim levels. In a world where well over 90% of our global population employ mobile devices as part of our daily lives, it would seem like a no-brainer. And yet, Chevy is one of the few to make this a priority. The same applies to Bluetooth integration which, despite the prevalence of hands-free legislation, is still finding its way to ‘standard feature status’ for many automakers.
Critiques aside, GM has always positioned themselves as an automaker with an intuitive understanding of evolving customer needs and expectations. With technology reigning supreme, valued above most everything else by today’s drivers, it’s difficult to fault them for engaging in this relationship with the Defense Department. It makes perfect sense and creates some intriguing conversations of what we may see in the years to come.