American Axle tech center expands in Detroit

Posted on August 8, 2016

Acme — American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc. has converted one of its vacant former manufacturing facilities in Detroit into a $30 million Advanced Technology Development Center to help it design products for the future.

The center, which was announced two years ago, opened last fall, has grown to about 190 employees and ultimately will house about 250 employees, American Axle’s Chief Technology Officer Phil Guys said on the sidelines of an auto conference here. American Axle has moved employees from other locations in Rochester Hills, Auburn Hills and Southfield, and has hired some workers for the space, he said.

The 350,000-square-foot former manufacturing plant across from its global headquarters in Detroit houses several of American Axle’s departments: advanced manufacturing, advanced information technology, gear development, corporate manufacturing, next-generation prototype builds, warranty analysis and competitive assessment. Another group of employees is slated to move in during the fourth quarter.

Guys said moving the groups together will help the company quicken its focus to remain among the leaders in automotive technology.

“Bringing functions together in an open, collaborative space will help us to do that,” said Guys, who will move into the space within a few weeks.

The company, which makes axles, driveline and drivetrain parts and systems, will announce details on a new architecture for axles later this year, Guys said.

The state in 2014 granted American Axle a $1 million grant for the technical center project that the state then said would generate up to $15.4 million in investment and create 75 jobs. The city of Detroit also was slated to provide a 12-year property tax abatement for the project.

American Axle closed the manufacturing part of its Detroit campus in February 2012, which affected a few hundred workers. In 2008, that facility housed about 2,000 employees and was the site of an 87-day strike that ended when the UAW agreed to wage cuts.

In early 2014, American Axle sold the majority of its 108-acre Detroit manufacturing complex to California-based Industrial Realty Group LLC, but chose to keep the 350,000 square feet.

The supplier also is expanding in other Metro Detroit locations. In Rochester Hills, the company is using available space to expand its mechatronics development adjacent to its Rochester Hills Technical Center. The new validation space, expected to open later this year, is projected to employ about 70 people. American Axle also has invested about $15 million in Auburn Hills for a metal forging operation.

American Axle was founded in 1994 when investors bought five former General Motors plants. The company employs more than 1,200 employees in Southeast Michigan and about 13,000 globally.