GM to open China research center to focus on "new energy"

Thu Nov 29, 2012 2:06am EST
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By Norihiko Shirouzu

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - General Motors Co is opening its latest global research center in China on Thursday, taking advantage of the country's vast supply of engineering graduates to drive its development of a new generation of electric vehicles.

China's auto market has grown rapidly - it has been the world's largest since 2009 - and one of the new centre's primary roles is to ensure the requirements and preferences of consumers in China are integrated into GM's global product development.

But the new facilities in Shanghai - the GM China Advanced Technical Center - will look after not just China's auto market. It plans to develop an array of technologies and know-how for the global marketplace, alongside similar engineering centers in the United States, Germany and South Korea.

"The facilities will support advances in technology, powertrains, electrification and vehicle design for GM on a local and global basis," GM said in a statement.

The decision to site a major upstream research facility in Shanghai was based in part on the relative abundance of engineering talent in China, which already produces more science and engineering graduates than any country, said John Du, a director of the new center.

"There's tremendous people capability in China with more science and engineering graduates than the U.S., Japan, and Germany combined," said Du.

"China now ranks first in the world in the number of PhD candidates, and these are talents we want to attract into the GM R&D and engineering workforce. Not just to develop product for China market."

The move is also consistent with a degree of division of labor GM has been promoting among its primary research facilities, said Yale Zhang, head of Shanghai-based consulting firm Automotive Foresight.   Continued...

A GM logo is seen on a Hydrogen car during a presentation in Berlin, August 28, 2009. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski