Burying Innovation

A few years ago I had a student who was possessed by the idea that there is a body of highly innovative R&D material out there that has been deliberately mothballed solely on account of the threat that it poses to current business models. But he had a very difficult time coming up with examples. Now comes a recent documentary film called “Who Killed the Electric Car?,” which gives us a specific, visual account of General Motors’s efforts to literally destroy a fleet of electric EV-1 vehicles that it took back from leaseholders.

Tidbits about the film:

If you type “who killed the electric car” into Google’s search box, the first result is a post from General Motors’s FastLane blog. Interesting.

The filmmakers obtained footage of GM’s demolition operation by chartering a helicopter to fly over the GM processing facility. Can anyone spot the IP not-so-hypothetical here?

And my favorite bit, because it’s personal: I went to school with the director, Chris Paine, from K through 12th grade. It’s great to see him have this success.

See Chris’s appearance on The Daily Show (Part 1, Part 2).

Read production notes blogged by Chris (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) and by the film’s producer (Part 1, Part 2).

2 thoughts on “Burying Innovation

  1. Interesting stuff! I just have one quibble–I think that GM should have a right to get something on the “top page” about the movie. As long as their link is clearly marked as “sponsored,” it seems fair to give them a chance to weigh in on what appear to be pretty damaging allegations.

    I’ve made a bit more of an argument to that effect here:

    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=888327

    though my primary concern was potential hapless victims of “dontdatehimgirl.com”!

  2. I wish that I’d kept a screenshot of the Google results page that I was relying on in the main post. In that page, the link to the GM FastLane blog post was not a sponsored link; it was the first result in the list of search results. Just now, I ran the search again. GM has a sponsored link at the top of the page, and the GM blog post is result #9.

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