Just five years ago GM was selling a little over 100,000 vehicles per year in China, and only two years ago the figure was 500,000. Today, GM’s sales tally in the rapidly expanding market is in excess of one million vehicles and a significant number of these are Buicks. The brand is so advanced in China that today officials took the wraps off a new hybrid version of the LaCrosse sedan, dubbed the Eco-Hybrid, and plan to start selling fuel-cell versions as well by as early as 2010.

The Buick LaCrosse Eco-Hybrid was developed by Shanghai GM, a partnership between GM and Shanghai Auto, and will be joined by a second hybrid model in the new future, according to officials from the Chinese-American joint-venture. The new Eco-Hybrid drivetrain is said to consume just 8.3L of petrol per 100km (28mpg) and designers are said to be working on even more efficient models, reports Automotive News. There’s no word on when either of these models will be available in showrooms but officials are boasting that more than 11 new engine designs will be launched between 2009 and 2012.

It’s good to see carmakers in developing markets like China focusing on improving the fuel efficiency of their cars. It would be easy for them to develop unrefined, low-cost powertrains, which guzzle fuel, but instead they are showing that hybrid and even fuel-cell technology will play a major role in these new markets.