General Motors is celebrating its 100th birthday today and has organized a number of events taking place around the world to mark the occasion. Major highlights of the day include the unveiling of the production Chevrolet Volt scheduled for later today, as well as the groundbreaking of a $250 million research facility in China.

The main role of the site will be to develop a new generation of hybrid and electric vehicles targeted primarily at the Chinese market, however the technologies will also filter across to more markets. Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony, GM’s Asia-Pacific chief Nick Reilly confirmed that engineers in China will “develop things for GM worldwide.”

Reilly also revealed that the center, which is expected to employ up to 1,500 scientists, will also develop lightweight materials and more efficient manufacturing processes, reports the Associated Press.

GM already sells a number of hybrid models in China including the Buick LaCrosse Hybrid, which went on sale earlier this year. The carmaker has also developed a number of concepts there, including the Riviera (pictured) and more recent Invicta.

China will play a much more crucial role in the next century for GM, with sales in the country already higher than any other single market except the U.S. However, Reilly is predicting that China will become the world's biggest car market within four to six years on the back of continuous annual growth levels of between 10 and 15%.