GM's $100M Venture Fund on the Hunt for Car Sharing Play


When it comes to car sharing, General Motors’ (s GM) new venture capital arm, GM Ventures, wants to get some skin in the game. That’s according to Jon Lauckner, a top executive in the development of the plug-in Chevy Volt who took on the role of GM Ventures President earlier this month.

Funded with an initial $100 million and tasked with identifying, developing and investing in innovative transportation technologies, GM Ventures launched as a subsidiary of the automaker in June.

Lauckner, who is in Silicon Valley this week for the Plug-in 2010 conference and meetings with VCs on Sand Hill Road, told me that GM Ventures is looking for a car sharing investment and he sees at least two “interesting models”: those of Zipcar (s ZIP) and

Both companies were founded by Robin Chase, who has called for using open standards and wireless mesh networks to help reduce emissions from the transportation sector. After co-founding Zipcar in 2000, she left the company (which has gone on to become the country’s largest car sharing provider and recently filed for an IPO) and fired up GoLoco, which puts social networking to work in the service of carpooling. (Coincidentally, Lauckner and Chase both rank on our list of top connected car influencers).

Beyond car sharing, Lauckner said GM Ventures plans to invest in a range of automotive-related technologies. He named five general categories in addition to car sharing where GM Ventures is looking for investments, including: advanced cleantech (such as batteries, motors, and “even fuel cells”), infotainment, advanced materials (these could be lightweight or sustainable), systems and subsystems (such as sensors for semi-autonomous driving), and “value stream” (secondary uses for batteries, for example).

In the infotainment category, GM Ventures is working closely with the automaker’s OnStar team. According to Nick Pudar, VP of Planning and Business Development for OnStar, GM Ventures is looking at between 1-2 technologies each week that relate to OnStar’s platform, expertise or future needs.

The overriding requirement for potential investments, said Lauckner, is that the technology should be ready for introduction in the next product life cycle — in other words, deployment in a commercial vehicle around 2013.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Andrew Currie

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Terrence Murray

I have been a zipcar user for more than three years now and have grown convinced that while the company,based on its recent S1, is not profitable the model it’s built on is the future.

This is totally subjective, but I have no desire to own a car and experience the hassle of insurance and yearly check ups. In part because of my “Zipcar experience”, I have come to view the automobile as a utility. A tool, much like water or electricity, that I need to conduct essential chores (airport runs, groceries, a possible weekend get away). The ability to choose the car I get to drive when go online is just an added bonus.

I think GM’s forecasters have understood that a chunk of the future automobile experience is in car sharing services like Zipcar!

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