In a move to bring greater focus and urgency to developing leading edge technology for all General Motors vehicles, the company on January 19 named Thomas G. Stephens its new global chief technology officer (CTO).

“Customers today expect and deserve the very best technology from their GM vehicles,” said GM chairman and CEO Dan Akerson. “Tom will make sure that GM technology keeps up with our customers and keeps ahead of our competitors.”

The new CTO position is a major element of Akerson’s goal to make the company more customer driven and technology focused. In December, Akerson elevated Joel Ewanick to global chief marketing officer, responsible for GM’s brands globally.

As GM vice chairman and Chief Technology Officer, Stephens will strengthen the company’s technology vision and focus, working across the global organization to anticipate and deliver innovation for customers in each market. His primary role is to seek creative solutions and game-changing technologies to help GM shape the automotive future, leveraging internal and external partnerships to benefit customers today and tomorrow. Stephens also will be responsible for the company’s research and development organization led by GM vice president Alan Taub.

“Today’s cars and trucks are technology on wheels,” said Stephens. “I’m excited about working with the GM team in new ways and focusing my energy to keep us on the leading edge of automotive innovation.”

Stephens most recently was vice chairman, global product operations. Over his 42-year career, he has held a number of key positions, including vice president of Engineering in both the former GM Powertrain organization and GM Truck Group, vice president of Vehicle Integration and executive vice president of global powertrain and global quality. Early in his career, Stephens was assistant chief engineer of the Cadillac Northstar engine, and plant manager of the Livonia Engine Plant. Based on his broad experience and expertise, he was elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering, for his leadership role in the development of automotive powertrains with improved performance, fuel efficiency, and lower emissions.

Stephens, 62, will continue to report to Akerson and remains on the company’s executive committee. His move becomes effective on February 1.

A successor for Stephens in global product development will be announced soon.