It's extremely rare for one engineer's idea for a better widget to go from the drawing board to production with no input from manufacturing, design or other parts of the product development team.
The skateboard chassis, which General Motors invented and patented 20 years ago, proved that point: It was a team effort, says Larry Burns, who ran GM's R&D and planning from 1998 to 2009.
Sibling publication Automotive News asked Burns, now 71 and a consultant to several tech-oriented companies, to recall how the skateboard chassis, which now underpins nearly all battery-electric vehicles, was created. In his words:
"First and foremost I see this as a General Motors accomplishment. It happened at the time because we had a president and CEO who really wanted us to make a statement around the 100th anniversary of the automobile, and it was around the time of GM's 100th anniversary. After I was named head of R&D, we sat down, and Rick [Wagoner] said: 'Larry, if we were going to invent the automobile today rather than 100 years ago, what would we do differently in light of the serious side effects of the car, and using the technology that exists today?' And he asked me to think about that.