(Courtesy of Edmunds AutoObserver) DETROIT, MI-General Motors will invest $325 million to upgrade a Michigan factory to produce GM electric-vehicle components, as the U.S. automaker looks to expand its inventory of electric-drive vehicles. GM's investment in the 2.1-million-square-foot Warren, Mich., plant, which produced almost 340,000 transmissions last year, will result in 418 jobs, some newly created and others saved from elimination. The automaker didn't disclose the timing of the investment or details on of the EV components to be manufactured at the Warren factory. GM’s Warren plant currently makes transmissions for the Chevrolet Traverse and Malibu, Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia models, so manufacture of transmissions and gear-reduction systems for electric-drive vehicles would be a logical next step.

GM wants to broaden sales of hybrid and electric-drive vehicles as part of its effort to meet progressively more stringent U.S. greenhouse gas emissions standards. Among the 14 largest automakers, GM had the third-lowest fleetwide fuel economy for 2010 model-year vehicles, beating out only Ford, Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler and Chrysler, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). GM last month said it would launch a battery-electric variant of its Chevy Spark subcompact car in the U.S. and other world markets next year, though those electric motors will be produced at GM's White Marsh, Maryland, plant.

Through the first nine months of the year, General Motors' hybrid and electric-drive vehicle sales rose 22 percent from a year earlier to 6,412 vehicles, according to data compiled by Edmunds.com. The Chevrolet Volt, the plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle GM launched late last year, accounted for 3,895 vehicles, or 60 percent of GM's total. The company, whose next-best selling alternative-fueled vehicle is the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 hybrid pickup with 720 vehicles sold, is gearing up to produce the 2012 Buick LaCrosse hybrid. That model's eAssist system, which mates a 182-horsepower 2.4-liter Ecotec four-cylinder gasoline direct-injection engine with an electric motor/generator that can deliver an additional burst of up to 15 hp during acceleration, will also be available on the 2012 Buick Regal.