MIT Sloan business students develop launch plan for GM hydrogen cars — New products class brings current business question into the classroom

Photo /interview opportunity:

Students will be test driving the new hydrogen fuel cars that inspired their marketing plans on April 14 from approximately, 11:30 a.m. - noon alongside MIT's Kresge Auditorium, opposite 77 Massachusetts Ave.

The winning team and classmates will be available at the Lars Anderson Auto Museum from 5:00 - 7:30 p.m., during GM's “Road to Hydrogen” Tech Tour and dinner.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., April 8, 2004 — How do you market a completely new vehicle technology — hydrogen power — to the public? That's the question MIT Sloan School of Management students grappled with this past semester in an unusually in-depth, real-world project as part of the course Design and Marketing New Products. This revamped class has replaced its individual student project that focused on an aspect of the product development and marketing cycle, with a full-blown 6-week group project to design and mass market a hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicle for General Motors Corporation (GM). The top team project was chosen by the professor, teaching assistant and a GM executive.

“GM has not yet made specific decisions is this area yet on how they will market their new vehicles,” said Glen Urban, MIT Sloan professor of management, who teaches the class. “This makes it fresh, untested, and a much more real-world experience for the students than a staid case study.”

“As fuel cell technology continues to advance, we have to understand what it's going to take to make the technology successful in the marketplace,” said Julie Beamer, director of commercialization, General Motors Fuel Cell Activities. “Through our collaborations with prestigious institutions like MIT, General Motors is engaged with a broad range of business leaders, innovators and intellectuals on the key issues surrounding commercial fuel cell introduction and the development of a hydrogen infrastructure.”

The students went through the whole product development process, with assumptions on engineering delivery, costs, and hydrogen infrastructure. The class divided into teams of eight students each to define an entry strategy by choosing the type of car they wanted to work with: SUV, sports, economy etc. Then they designed the vehicle, looking at target segment, product positioning, specs, features and style. They tested it with customers and developed a launch plan, outlining advertising, selling price, and infrastructure for fueling. Prof. Urban met with each team once a week to provide feedback at different project stages.

In the MIT Sloan new products class, students study opportunity identification, product design, testing, launch and life cycle management, through a series of readings, guest speakers, and discussions. The class project represents a major part of the students' learning experience and their grade.

After all six teams presented their projects, Prof. Urban, his teaching assistants, and a GM executive selected the top plan. The winning team, named “Team Pending", designed a luxury-class sports sedan stressing unparalleled performance, with 4-wheel steering and use of by-wire technology. (Currently used in airplanes, by-wire technology replaces mechanical links in the vehicle with electrical signals.) The team was noted for their very complete plan and solid process, their focus on performance as the key benefit, and their concept testing.

“Team Pending” included MIT Sloan students Jeb Keiper (Cambridge, MA), Josh Schanker (Syosset, NY), Michael Ibrahim (Virginia, MN), Tom Stocky (Glen Allen, VA), Geraldine Zingapan (Manila, Philippines), Truman Bradley (Boston), Marcus Wilson (Oklahoma City), and Carlos Caicedo (Bogota, Columbia).

The winning team will be honored at a dinner GM is holding on Wednesday, April 14 from 5-7:30 pm, at the Lars Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline. The students from the class will also test drive GM's prototype hydrogen fuel cell car at MIT alongside Kresge Auditorium on the same day from approximately 11:30 am-noon. (Kresge is opposite 77 Massachusetts Ave.) Reporters are invited to attend both events and test out the vehicles alongside the students. Reporters should call media contacts above to schedule.

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Kofi Annan, SF '72, former Secretary-General of the UN, is one of a network of global leaders in government and industry who hold degrees from MIT Sloan.

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