DETROIT -- Five years ago, General Motors Corp.'s worldwide telecommunications system was lagging the company's fledgling effort to globalize vehicle design, engineering, and manufacturing.
It would take an hour or more for an engineer in Europe to send a large computerized design file to a manufacturing plant overseas, and another hour for the plant to send the file back with changes.
Now, as the company moves toward building more models in more places off the same underpinnings to save billions, GM and AT&T Inc. have a network that allows engineers and plant officials worldwide to simultaneously view the same data and discuss it.
Yesterday, GM gave AT&T even more business, awarding it a five-year, $1 billion global networking contract that will prepare the world's largest automaker for whatever electronic breakthroughs lie ahead.
GM employees eventually will have the same telecommunications tools no matter where they are in the world, including common voice mail and conferencing abilities.