Reconfirming the key role that China will play in the future of the automotive industry, General Motors has begun construction on a new $250 million Research and Development facility in Shanghai, China. The GM Center for Advanced Research and Science will focus its efforts on work with alternative fuels and advanced electric and hybrid propulsion systems as well as explore new possibilities for cooperative manufacturing and resolving future energy supply issues. Phase one of the new facility is slated to become operational sometime in 2009. When fully completed, the center is expected to have a staff of 2,500 employees, including 300 research personnel.
China is currently GM's second-largest international market and serves as the automaker's main research and manufacturing base in Asia. During the first half of 2008, the automaker sold nearly 600,000 of its vehicles in China. Nick Riley, president of GM's Asia Pacific Region, anticipates a 10-15 percent increase in GM's annual sales volume there will continue for at least the next five years. He told reporters at the groundbreaking ceremony that he expects China to become the largest auto market in the world within the next four to six years. "As we look ahead to our next century, no major market is expected to grow faster or play a more important role in the automotive industry's ongoing development than China. Our new campus will position GM to remain a leader in China and globally by enabling us to take full advantage of the tremendous opportunities that this market has to offer."
In a separate statement, General Motors also confirmed that China would become the first country outside of the U.S. to sell its new Chevy Volt. The plug-in EV is set to arrive on the Chinese mainland sometime in 2011. Earlier this year, GM began marketing a hybrid version of the Buick LaCrosse here.