[ad#post_ad]GM is taking the next critical step to position itself competitively in a future of electrified automobiles.

Vice Chairman Tom Stephens is announcing today that GM is expanding its in-house core competency to include the design and manufacture of electric motors. This will make the company the first major US automaker to mass produce its own electric motors.

Electric traction motors are a critical component for both hybrid and electric cars. Stephens likens them to the combustion engine, and the battery to the fuel tank. “In the future, electric motors might become as important to GM as engines are now,” Stephens said.

Doing this development and production in-house will allow the company to improve quality and reliability while at the same time reducing costs.

The first vehicle to launch with a GM-built electric motor will be the next generation rear-wheel drive 2-mode hybrid expected to arrive in 2013.

“Electric motor innovation supported the first wave of automotive growth a century ago with the electric starter, which eliminated the need for a hand crank, and revolutionized automotive travel for the customer,” said Stephens. “We think the electrification of today’s automobiles will be just as revolutionary and just as beneficial to our customers. Electric motors will play a huge role in that.”

GM has already gained considerable experience designing and building electric motors during the last seven years, and over that time has spent $44 million dollars quietly building up expertise and competence.

The new electric motor production project will receive an investment of $246 million which will go towards converting the Baltimore Transmission plant in White Marsh, Maryland into a mass production high volume electric motor plant.

GM says it will build some but not all of its electric motors, but also claims their expertise will better help them better understand the supply chain and to become better customers for buying some motors from outside suppliers.

Pete Savagian is GM's Engineering Director, of Hybrid Powertrain Systems.  He notes that electric motors are made up of a few core elements, including steel, wire, magnets, bearings, mountings, and cooling systems.  H explains that it is important to optimize these elements to create motors that have high power density, low cost, and excellent longevity and performance. Reducing noise, vibration and harshness is another major tactic for improving customer satisfaction.

This new electric motor core competency and assembly plant adds a new thrust towards the goal of electrification of the automobile in addition to GM's already operational Brownstown Volt battery pack assembly plant.

Make no mistake about it, this time the electric car is here to stay.