GM wants to transform beyond cars and trucks

General Motors is trying to transform itself and taking a page from Apple’s playbook: make a product, in this case an automobile, and couple it with a range of services that can potentially bring in revenues long after the initial sale.

That transformation of the more than century-old company is already happening under the watch of CEO Mary Barra, as it looks to tap into a growing auto services segment estimated to be worth more than a trillion dollars.

According to conversations between Reuters and several GM executives, an internal innovation team is developing new lines of businesses that could come with monthly or quarterly subscription fees that go right to GM's pockets.

One such product that's already making headway: BrightDrop, a unit that will provide electric vans and related hardware to commercial delivery firms, starting with FedEx.

Another idea is to leverage GM's long-running OnStar vehicle communication service to sell other services that can be delivered over the air to vehicles connected to the web.

For example: GM executives told Reuters its dealers could offer insurance policies to owners when they buy or lease a vehicle.

Barra told Reuters: Instead of continuing to return the billions of dollars to shareholders in dividends and stock buybacks of recent years, she's going to use that money to invest in electric vehicles and hire the staff to give GM more of a Silicon Valley vibe.

But it will have to overcome the many skeptics out there who doubt an old-stodgy automaker can transform itself into an Apple-like juggernaut, and become a more formidable tech-forward rival to Tesla.

And it's not alone - all the other automakers have watched Tesla zoom to the top spot as the world's most valuable car company - and are in the midst of transformations as well- with a heavy focus on rolling out electric vehicles.

Investors, however, sense an opportunity for GM to evolve and have pushed the stock up nearly 50 percent so far this year.

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