GM hires former Tesla Executive to revamp battery development

General Motors Co. tapped a former Tesla Inc. executive to run its battery operations as the Detroit automaker wrestles with manufacturing problems that have hampered electric-vehicle output.

Kurt Kelty will focus on developing GM’s end-to-end battery strategy, including sourcing of raw materials, investment in new storage technologies and the industrialization of battery innovations, the company said Thursday in a statement. He will report to GM President Mark Reuss.

GM has been hiring experienced executives from West Coast tech firms in an effort to compete with Tesla in EVs as well as with software giants like Apple Inc. The automaker last year hired Mike Abbott, who led a team responsible for Apple’s cloud computing.

Kelty was with Tesla for 11 years, leaving in 2017 after leading negotiations with Panasonic to develop the car company’s large Nevada factory. Before that, he worked for Panasonic, where he was founder and director of its US battery research lab.

That experience could come in handy for GM, which has only recently started boosting production of EVs and has wrestled with automation problems at assembly plants. The company said that the operations that assemble battery cells into modules and packs have had difficulty getting mass production going.

GM hoped to build and sell about 70,000 EVs using its Ultium battery pack last year, but only sold about 14,000.

Most recently, Kelty was a vice president at battery materials company Sila Nanotechnologies Inc.

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