"We're currently seeking the next generation of game-changers to help us usher in a new age of automotive innovation," says GM Chief Information Officer Randy Mott, who was Hewlett-Packard's CIO until he joined GM in February.
Although there are shortages of programmers and software engineers in some parts of the country, GM should be able to recruit enough talent by setting up shop in four different regions, experts say. With the tech-hub of Austin and GM's home base in Detroit already covered, the most likely locations for the next two centers are on the West Coast, experts say.
GM says it will offer competitive wages and benefits to pull in recent college graduates and experienced information technology professionals. The company's iconic brand status will help attract people, experts say.
But offering competitive pay will cost GM. Software engineers make $60,000 to $70,000 a year right out of college, and experienced workers can make more, says James Stoeckmann, senior compensation specialist for World at Work, an organization of human resources executives who deal with pay issues.
Expensive or not, the strategy is correct for GM as it tries to differentiate its products from other automakers, says Michael Robinet, managing director of IHS Automotive, an industry consulting firm. With the gap in quality between brands shrinking, the way a car drives and its electronics soon will be the only things that set a company apart, he says.
Currently, GM and most automakers rely on outside companies for touch screen and other technology. But often those companies sell the technology to multiple carmakers, or new software is sold in an expensive bidding war, Robinet says.
"If they have their own skunk works and they find a new technology, they are guaranteed to bring it to market first," he says.
Ford, for instance, worked with Microsoft Inc. on its pioneering Sync system, which brought voice activation technology into cars ahead of most competitors. But Ford only had exclusive use of the system for a year before Microsoft was able to license it to other companies, namely Hyundai and Kia.
Outside companies have so much expertise that it will take years for GM to catch up, making it unlikely that the company will completely walk away from outside firms, Robinet says.
Yet with software gaining so much importance in the way all companies operate, it's even possible that GM will find its next generation of leaders somewhere in the computer centers, Kirkpatrick says."CEOs of every company in the future are going to have to be software thinkers," he says.