SHANGHAI -- General Motors said on Monday it expanded its design studio in China, which will focus only on developing electric and connected cars and no longer design gasoline-powered vehicles.
The largest U.S. automaker is preparing to eliminate internal combustion engines from its vehicle fleet by 2035 and the latest expansion in Asia underscores its efforts to gain a bigger foothold in China, the world's largest EV market.
It also plays into GM's ambitions of adding a recurring revenue stream from software and services long after the initial product is sold, such as Apple Inc., by selling EV battery charging and swapping services for example.
GM aims to exceed annual sales of 1 million EVs in the U.S. and China by 2025. Last month, the company said it would boost spending on electric and autonomous vehicles, shelling out $35 billion through 2025, up 75 percent from March 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic choked the industry.
The latest expansion and upgrade will enable the GM China Advanced Design Center in Shanghai to double design capacity and “focus on envisioning future designs of electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles and beyond,” GM said in a statement.
The 5,000-square-meter facility houses two full-size milling platforms, a color, material and finish studio, a head-mounted-display studio, a virtual reality room and a patio.
With new facilities and the studio's growing team of employees, "we have the right organizations and people to bring the most desirable products to China's consumers," Julian Blissett, executive vice president and president of GM China, said in a statement.
The new advanced design studio -- one of three around the world responsible for future GM vehicles -- was built by retooling the existing studio on the same campus as GM's China tech center in Shanghai.
GM said it nearly doubled the studio to about 54,000 square feet, and is hiring to expand the design team. The company did not say how many employees will be added.
A person close to the automaker said the team currently has fewer than 40 designers, digital and physical modelers, virtual reality experts, and support personnel.
Integrating digitally and spatially interactive designs, an atrium with variable color temperatures and 27 rotating glass doors, it offers an immersive experience and inspirational creative space for designers, GM noted.
The center was established in 2012 as part of the GM China Advanced Technical Center.
In Shanghai, GM also runs a separate tech center, Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center.
The Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center was set up in 1997 as a partnership between GM and SAIC Motor Corp. It provides vehicle design, engineering development, testing and validation for GM’s two auto production joint ventures -- SAIC-GM and SAIC-GM-Wuling.
SAIC-GM builds Buick, Chevrolet and Cadillac cars and light trucks, while SAIC-GM-Wuling mainly produces minibuses for the Wuling brand and entry-level cars for the Baojun marque.
GM sold 170,000 EVs in China last year, up from 50,000 in 2019.
Reuters contributed to this report.