General Motors Expanding California Design Operations – Ward’s Auto

General Motors is setting aside $71 million to expand its Advanced Design Center in Pasadena, CA, to complement the automaker’s ongoing expansions of GM Design operations now under way in Warren, MI, and Shanghai. 

The investment will increase the Advanced Design Center’s capacity and create more jobs in the Los Angeles area, GM says.  The project involves renovations to three existing building on the 8-acre (3-ha) property and should be ready for occupancy by second-half 2022. 

“Having a physical presence in Southern California’s technology epicenter is an integral part of our global design operations, and this new innovation campus will not only expand our operations twofold but offers access to the rich cultural diversity and talent in the region,” says Michael Simcoe, GM vice president-Global Design. 

“Our positioning will allow us to attract dynamic candidates in fields that will bolster GM’s proven design capabilities and challenge conventional thinking of what our future portfolio of connected products and services can encompass,” he says. 

The plan to shift from GM’s existing space in North Hollywood, which it has occupied for two decades, to the 149,000-sq.-ft. (13,840-sq.-m) campus in Pasadena makes room for expanded advanced technology teams that will help accelerate the automaker’s goal of zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion, officials say.  

The new site (pictured, below) is closer to technology centers on the West Coast and creates a recruiting opportunity with its proximity to leading universities and design schools, GM says.  

The campus of the Art Center College of Design, a major source of automotive designers for the auto industry, and the world-famous California Institute of Technology are both located in Pasadena. Southern California also is a center for graphic design and gaming, which are playing a larger role in the design of automotive cockpits. 

General Motors

The move to the new campus also underscores GM’s long-term commitment to maintain a physical presence in one of North America’s largest hubs for multidisciplinary design and cutting-edge innovation. The new campus also will increase GM’s capacity to support emerging business opportunities in areas of advanced technology, software integration and future mobility solutions. 

The move to Pasadena is part of GM Design’s broader global expansion. GM’s new Design West facility is under construction at its Global Technical Center in Warren, and the automaker is doubling the size of its GM Design Center in Shanghai. 

GM’s advanced-design team in California focuses on developing concept and future mobility projects that fall outside the scope of existing production-vehicle programs. 

Creating alternative mobility applications can reveal opportunities for transformative innovation and help influence future GM products and services, while exploring new growth opportunities for the company such as BrightDrop, GM’s new commercial delivery and logistics business, and Cadillac’s personal autonomous vertical takeoff and landing air taxi (pictured, below)

General Motors

It also is working on a lunar rover concept with aerospace giant Lockheed Martin. 

The additional space will enable GM to greatly expand its breadth of output, leveraging the new location to recruit top regional talent in disciplines of aerospace engineering, defense, automotive design, software development and advanced technology. 

“The collaborative nature of this facility will provide our advanced design team, cross-functional groups, prospective employees and external partners with the environment they need to continually redefine the boundaries of future mobility,” says Bryan Nesbitt, GM executive director-Global Advanced Design and Global Architecture Studios. 

The new campus will provide a more-efficient layout, designed to increase efficiency of the various paint, metal and plastic workshops. Its bigger footprint will allow for improved output of physical and virtual proof-of-concepts and show cars as well as the ability to rapidly pilot visualization and immersive technology, including augmented and virtual reality. 

It will include an innovation lab for designing, implementing and validating new design tools; an advanced user experience/user interface design studio; and a dedicated collaboration and R&D space for strategic internal and external GM partnerships. 

GM Design has operated in Southern California since the 1980s, first with its Advanced Concept Studio in Newbury Park from 1983–1996, and the current, 70-employee North Hollywood studio, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2020. 

The North Hollywood Design Center will continue to be utilized for advanced design operations as work on the new facility is completed in second-half 2022.