NEW YORK – Alan Taub, an executive director of General Motors Corp.’s research and development operations, will succeed Larry Burns as head of that division within the next several months, Burns tells Ward’s here.

Burns is considering other career moves, including teaching at a university but says he has not made a final decision on what will come next.

“There’s no exact date (for my retirement),” he says, “but it will be within the next couple of months.

“I’ve wanted to be a professor,” the 58-year-old scientist adds. “I haven't run out of ideas.”

But Burns, who holds a PhD. in civil engineering, says he could decide to pursue an industrial future instead.

Burns led GM’s R&D efforts for 11 years, marking the longest tenure of anyone in that post since Charles Kettering, who held the position from 1920-1947. He piloted GM’s drive to develop fuel-cell vehicles and currently has 110 Chevrolet Equinox FCVs operating as a trial fleet.

The FCV fleet has amassed more than 900,000 miles (1.4 million km) since it was launched and more than 3,400 people have driven the Equinoxes, including government officials, press representatives and members of the public who applied to test the vehicles.

Burns expects second-generation GM FCVs to be launched in the 2014-2015 timeframe, when the hydrogen-powered vehicles may be produced in the tens of thousands. He says the third-generation may launch in the 2017-2018 window, when the industry may start producing FCVs in the millions of units.

In his new role as R&D director, Taub will report to Tom Stephens, a GM vice chairman in charge of product development. However, Burns will continue to report to CEO Fritz Henderson until he leaves. Previously, Burns reported to departed Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner.