GM and PHEV Maker Bright Automotive Announce Strategic Relationship; GM Ventures Funding

Bright Automotive, the developer of the purpose-built, plug-in hybrid IDEA (earlier post), and General Motors Co. have agreed to pursue a strategic relationship.

GM has provided funding to the Indiana automaker, the first funding action by the newly formed General Motors Ventures LLC (earlier post). Funding through GM Ventures will allow Bright to begin ramping up the development of the production program for the IDEA in the third quarter of 2010. Bright continues to seek a low-interest loan through the Department of Energy’s ATVM program. Financial terms were not disclosed.

The companies signed a memorandum of understanding in July. GM Ventures provided funding to Bright this week, and the two companies intend to complete the formal agreements later this year. Upon completion of the agreements and other terms, General Motors Ventures would have a minority stake in Bright Automotive and Bright would have access to GM technologies, and advanced engine and transmission systems, for its vehicle.

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 this case, our funding of Bright Automotive will accelerate the introduction of advanced propulsion and light-weight technologies in the commercial vehicle market.

—Jon Lauckner, president of GM Ventures

This relationship is an important step forward for Bright, and a strong endorsement of our highly experienced automotive team and our incredible vehicle. 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.

—Reuben Munger, Bright Automotive Chairman and CEO

In developing the IDEA, Bright started with a clean sheet of paper, listened to customers, and took a novel approach to product development that focused on light-weighting, aerodynamics and a highly efficient drivetrain. The result is a multipurpose vehicle for business fleets—the first designed to be highly efficient and provide a clear economic benefit.

The IDEA operates in electric mode for 40 miles before switching to an estimated 36-mpg hybrid mode for 100+ mpg potential based on daily driving behavior.

General Motors Ventures, LLC, was funded with an initial investment of $100 million, and is currently exploring equity investments in a number of auto-related technologies and business models.

Bright Automotive launched from Colorado-based Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) in January 2008.


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