Opened in 2006 at an initial cost of $100m, GM do Brasil has expanded its Technical Centre in São Caetano do Sul in the Greater São Paulo with the extension just officially opened.

There are now four buildings totalling 323,000 sq ft, double the initial size. The technical headcount will reach 1,300 engineers by 2010 with the focus on design, styling and manufacturing.

The new investment allows the centre to completely develop new vehicles, from rendering to tooling and production processes to final assembly at the plant.

The tech centre is about a mile from company headquarters and the oldest (79 years) GM facility in the country, employing some 8,000 people, where the Vectra (a unique locally developed model), Astra and Corsa are produced.

This Brazilian tech centre is the most modern of the five GM facilities wolrd wide. Besides products for local and regional markets, it has also been assigned the task of designing the next world mid-size pickup truck (S-10 and Colorado successor) scheduled for 2011/12.

It is also responsible for the new Viva (Corsa) and Onyx (Celta/Prisma) families. The centre further develops concepts such as 2008's GPiX, basis of the new Agile.

Last year, the subsidiary exported $180m in engineering services to GM's many divisions.

It is currently supplying modelling and tooling for some roof and rear section components for the Chevrolet Volt.

But it has not forecast any increase in exported services within the next years, with insiders saying that would depend on the world economy and the recovery of 'new GM' itself.

Fernando Calmon