GKN Driveline, which has extensive interests in the West Midlands, is planning to expand its Chinese operations with the opening of a major new production facility.

Business development director for China, Haixiang Wang, said the engineering group had selected a base in Wuhan and the 44,000 sq m plant was scheduled to open during the first half of 2009.

Speaking during a briefing in Beijing, Haixiang Wang said the Shanghai GKN (SDS) facility would initially supply driveshafts for Dongfeng and Dongfeng's joint-venture programmes with Honda and Citroen.

Expected to provide more than 600 jobs, the plant will have an annual production capacity of more than one million driveshafts.

GKN Driveline, which showcased technology from its ten existing Chinese production facilities at last month's Beijing International Auto Show, is the first major European automotive supplier to invest in China.

The company is China's leading producer of driveline components and currently has automotive manufacturing operations in Kangqiao, Zhoupu and Shenjiang in Pudong, Shanghai, as well as plants in Chongqing and Jilin.

Haixiang Wang said the company was also introducing breakthrough technology providing lighter driveshaft components, improved fuel economy and better overall vehicle performance.

"Customers whose cars are equipped with our new technology will notice significant improvements in performance," he said.

The technology will make cars around two kilogrammes lighter, improving fuel efficiency and reducing CO2 emissions.

It will also make the vehicles easier to park by reducing the turning circle and

quieter, due to reductions in driveline noise, vibration and harshness.

"Our new designs represent the first major change in constant-velocity-joint (CVJ) technology in more than 70 years," said Mr Wang.

"Teamwork played a major role in the development process. Engineering groups working together at company research centres around the world were able to develop production-ready components in less than three years."

The announcement of the new Chinese facility comes just two months after the firm opened its new £12 million state-ofthe-art production facility in southern India.

Located at Oragadam, near Chennai, in Tamil Nadu, the 10,000 sq m plant employs 200 people and will have an annual production capacity of 660,000 sideshafts.

GKN chief executive Sir Kevin Smith said that by locating the plant in Chennai it was better able to serve customers in the

southern regions of India. Managing director for GKN Driveline's operations in India, Ravindra Ojha, said: "Over the years, GKN Driveline has forged strong partnerships here based on our ability to reliably supply quality products to our customers."

GKN Driveline employs 650 people at three factories in India. Near Delhi in the north, it has facilities in Faridabad and Dharuhera. Production at a third plant in Gummidipoondi, near Chennai, has been transferred to the new Oragadam facility.

GKN Driveline, which has operations in Erdington, Great Barr, Redditch and Aldridge, is a world leader in the design and production of driveline components.

It designs, builds, and supplies the most extensive and widely-used range of driveline components in the automotive industry.

It covers every application from entry level front-wheel-drive vehicles to the most sophisticated four-wheel-drive vehicles.