BANGALORE, India -- General Motors said on Tuesday it would invest $60 million over three years in an Indian technology center which would aid round-the-clock global engineering and research to make futuristic vehicles.
Officials of the world's biggest car maker said the center, with 260 engineers to be hired over the next 18 months, will start work in June and collaborate with U.S. and European centers of the company over high-speed communication links from Bangalore.
John Cohoon, executive director for global research, told a news conference that India's pool of talented engineers will help GM meet a skills shortage and also give a cost advantage.
With a time-zone difference between European and U.S. centers that form part of about 15 engineering centers that directly employ about 20,000 people worldwide, the Indian center would boost productivity and speed up vehicle research, he said.
"This will establish for GM 24-hour-a-day engineering capabilities," Cohoon said.
Global engineering groups like ABB and General Electric Co. already have facilities in Bangalore as part of a new wave of manufacturing research after the city emerged as a software hub for high-tech companies.
With microchips among automobile components, the software that goes into them is also becoming a key factor.
B.G. Prakash, plucked out by GM from India's state-run Aeronautical Development Agency to become the director of its science laboratory, said the India center would conduct research to aid the use of lightweight materials like aluminum and help develop "software intensive vehicles."
Computer-aided design and manufacturing from Bangalore will increase productivity for GM, Cohoon said. While regional R&D centers in South Korea and Australia serve local manufacturing, the Indian facility will help global work, he added.
Separately, GM is also working with Indian software service giants like Wipro and HCL Technologies which execute projects that aid GM's research.
GM is also active as a car maker in the Indian market, which is forecast to be one of the world's fastest growing this decade.
The managing director of GM's Indian unit, Aditya Vij, said it would complete by the first quarter of next year a 13.8 billion rupee ($289 million) investment in its manufacturing facility in the western state of Gujarat.
Some 7.8 billion of this is already in place.
Vij said GM, which already has its Opel Astra, Corsa, Swing and Vectra models in the local market, planned to launch at least three more products this year.