General Motors expanded its Advanced Technology Center in Torrance with a ceremony in June 2011. June 09, 2011. The company announced Monday the plant will
General Motors expanded its Advanced Technology Center in Torrance with a ceremony in June 2011. June 09, 2011. The company announced Monday the plant will be relocated to Michigan. (Steve McCrank / Staff Photographer)

A General Motors engineering plant in Torrance dedicated to technologies for alternative-fuel vehicles will be relocated to Michigan, company officials said Monday.

The Advanced Technology Center, which employs 114 people, will move to Pontiac, Mich., by the end of next year as the automaker consolidates various operations around the country into one facility. The car company said its move will save money and reduce development times because more work will be under the one roof.

Engineers and technicians at the ATC - as the Torrance center is known - develop electric motors and power electronics.

The ATC was responsible for technology used in GM's EV1, the first mass-produced electric vehicle in modern times. The facility is at 3050 Lomita Blvd.

"Most of the employees will have job opportunities and we hope they will be interested in transferring to Pontiac with the work," GM spokesman Dan Flores said in an email to the Daily Breeze.

Torrance and the South Bay have represented a major West Coast auto industry hub. For example, Torrance is home to Toyota's U.S. sales and marketing arm and Honda's U.S. headquarters. Honda also has a vehicle design studio in Torrance.

Tesla Motors, which builds high-end electric cars, has an engineering center in Hawthorne.

Nissan's North American headquarters had been located in Carson for many years until it moved to Tennessee in 2006 to save money. Tennessee offers much lower wages, property values and even energy costs.

Last week, GM announced that it will invest $200 million into its Global Powertrain Engineering Headquarters in Pontiac to build a new 138,000-square-foot test wing, expected to be completed in the second half of 2014.

Operations from the ATC in Torrance, as well as three other GM facilities around the country, will relocate to the new facility. Pontiac will gain about 400 jobs from the moves.

"On the face of it, I do think this is GM following up a little bit on its attempt to really consolidate and rein in some of these far-flung operations," said Bill Visnic, senior editor at the auto information website Edmunds.com. "It has been their stated effort ever since their restructuring to save these costs."

GM exited bankruptcy in 2009 after the federal government saved the company from possible liquidation in the wake of the global financial crisis.

Visnic noted that GM's decision to move the ATC comes as the broader industry rethinks the future of electric vehicles amid weak sales because of the the high price tag and limited range.

"It's possible that some of the steam has gone out of the electric vehicle movement," Visnic said.

In 2011, GM spent $1.1 million on a facility adjacent to the ATC that the car company uses as a center to test its new vehicle technologies under California's weather and traffic conditions. That testing center will remain in Torrance, GM spokesman Dave Barthmus said.

The ATC was established in 1990 by Hughes Aircraft Co., the former aerospace business based in El Segundo. GM owned Hughes at the time and incorporated some of those aerospace technologies into its car business. Boeing purchased Hughes in 2000.

muhammed.el-hasan@dailybreeze.com

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