August 6, 2012 / 1:57 PM / 5 years ago

GM invests in lightweight-steel maker

* NanoSteel designs new class of steel

* GM says “nano-structured” steel could be “game-changer”

Aug 6 (Reuters) - General Motors Co is investing in a company that has designed a new type of lightweight, high-strength steel that could help the automaker significantly improve the fuel economy of its future cars and trucks.

GM said on Monday that its venture-capital arm, General Motors Ventures, has invested an undisclosed amount in NanoSteel Co.

The 10-year-old, privately held steel company, based in Providence, Rhode Island, has developed a new type of steel alloy that is designed to be thinner and higher in strength than more conventional steel, without compromising structural integrity.

The so-called “nano-structured” steel could be used in place of aluminum and other more exotic materials that automakers have considered, but which might be more costly to manufacture.

GM’s chief technology officer Jon Lauckner, who is head of global research and development and president of GM Ventures, said NanoSteel’s technology is “a potential game-changer” in the auto industry’s ongoing battle to reduce vehicle weight and fuel consumption.

NanoSteel said GM’s investment, part of a Series C round of venture funding, would enable it to “accelerate the final phases of development” of its new steel.

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