General Motors Announces $71 Million Investment in New Pasadena Location

Recently purchased three-building campus will serve as the automobile manufacturer’s Advanced Design Center

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Now, 7/13/2021

On Monday, General Motors announced a more than $71 million investment to establish a newly purchased three-building campus in Northeast Pasadena, where GM will operate its Advanced Design and Technology Center starting next year. The move will substantially increase the design division’s capacity and workforce.

“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,” said Bryan Nesbitt, executive director of GM’s Global Advanced Design and Global Architecture Studios.

Last week, Pasadena Now first reported that GM bought The Sierra, a 150,000-square-foot campus, located on an eight-acre property at Rosemead Boulevard and Sierra Madre Villa Avenue, for $49.5 million. GM is relocating its design studio in North Hollywood to the Pasadena location, which will “significantly expand GM’s capacity to support emerging business opportunities in areas of advanced technology, software integration and future mobility solutions,” according to a statement by GM.

“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,” said Michael Simcoe, GM’s vice president of 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,” Simcoe said.

The retrofit improvements to the new facility are scheduled to be completed in the second half of 2022, according to Mark Lubin of GM’s product, brand and initiative communications team. GM’s design team and other cross-functional groups will transition from the current facility in North Hollywood in staggered phases as portions of the new facility are completed, rather than all at once. Advanced design operations will continue at the North Hollywood facility until the improvements at the new location are completed.

GM declined to comment on the exact timeline of when the first groups of employees will begin working at the new Pasadena facility.

GM selected the Pasadena campus after a thorough search process which considered a number of other locations elsewhere. The investment signals the company’s “long-term commitment in the area” and to maintaining a physical presence in “one of North America’s largest hubs for multidisciplinary design and cutting-edge innovation,” according to the statement.

“Ultimately, the new site was selected for a combination of its size, location and turn-key nature of the existing buildings (not new construction),” Lubin said. “Additionally, the new site is closer to technology centers on the West Coast and creates a recruiting opportunity with its proximity to leading universities and design schools.”

The relocation “will make room for expanded advanced technology teams that will help accelerate GM’s goal of zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion,” according to the statement.

The move to Pasadena is part of GM Design’s broader global expansion. The company is currently constructing a new Design West facility at the Global Technical Center in Warren, Michigan, and also recently announced an expansion of the Advanced Design Center in Shanghai, China.

GM’s advanced design team focuses on developing concept and future mobility projects that fall outside the scope of existing production vehicle programs, according to the statement. “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.”

The company cited a number of examples of innovation and design work related to its broader growth strategy, such as BrightDrop, the newly established commercial delivery and logistics business and its all-electric ecosystem of products, software and services; Cadillac’s personal autonomous concept vehicle and vertical takeoff and landing aircraft; and a lunar rover concept developed in partnership with Lockheed Martin.

“The new facility will amplify GM’s role in the age of connected mobility, providing the latest tools, equipment and workspaces that have been tactically designed to foster synergy and ideation.”

Examples highlighted include a more efficient layout designed to mitigate disruptions and increase efficiency of the various paint, metal and plastic workshops; an increased footprint allowing for improved output of physical and virtual proof of concepts and show cars; the ability to rapidly pilot visualization and immersive technology, including augmented and virtual reality; an innovation lab for designing, implementing and validating new design tools; an advanced user experience/user interface design studio; and dedicated collaboration, research and development space for strategic internal and external GM partnerships.

GM has a long history of design facilities in California, including the Advanced Concept Studio in Newbury Park from 1983-1996 and the current North Hollywood studio, which celebrated its 20th anniversary last year. Nesbitt said they’ve outgrown that studio and faced a number of constraints there. There are about 65 to 70 employees at the North Hollywood location. GM representatives said they’re not yet announcing how many more employees will work in Pasadena.

“We’re really excited that we could find a new property that could meet our capacity expansion needs,” Nesbitt said. “We build a lot of physical proofs of concepts,” such as show cars, he added, and the new Pasadena location will allow them to “explore those new opportunities.”

Much of that design work will be focused on advancing GM’s plan for an all-electric vehicle future. and MarketWatch reported that GM’s stock jumped 4% on Friday after Wedbush Securities gave it an “outperform” rating, and that shares of the company have recovered more than 200% since March 2020 when the pandemic hit.

Wedbush’s market analyst Dan Ives is “confident that GM’s recent efforts into expanding its footprint in the electric vehicle segment will drive significant growth for the company in the future,” according to Invezz. “GM plans to spend $35 billion on R&D to accelerate its shift to electric vehicles and develop advanced battery technology.”

Ives said GM has “regained its spot in the league of top U.S. automakers, thanks to the competent leadership of CEO Mary Barra,” according to MarketWatch.

By leveraging the “game-changing” technology of GM’s Ultium battery, the legacy auto manufacturer is in a “great position to take advantage of an emerging $5 trillion battery market over the next decade,” according to Ives. GM’s software and services business related to its electric vehicle focus represents “a potential gold mine” with the potential to net $20 to $30 billion over the next five to seven years.