GM to invest $331M in powertrain plants in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana

Posted on April 4, 2013

General Motors Co. said Thursday it will invest $331.8 million into four powertrain plants in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana to help it build more fuel-efficient engines and an eight-speed transmission. In addition, the company also is adding $46 million to previously announced investments at two other Michigan plants.

GM North America Manufacturing Manager Arvin Jones said the investments would not create any new jobs, but are expected to retain 1,650 jobs.

The investments are part of the $1.5 billion GM said it would invest in North America plants this year. The company so far this year has announced investments totaling $1.2 billion.

“We are investing in technologies and manufacturing capabilities that produce high-quality, fuel-efficient vehicles and components for our customers,” Diana Tremblay, vice president of GM North American manufacturing, said in a statement. “Today’s announcement demonstrates GM’s commitment to growing the business and strengthening the plant communities where we receive so much support.”

Flint Engine Operations will get the bulk of the new money — $215 million — to build a small Ecotec gasoline engine and to upgrade tooling for production of a current V-6 engine.

Jones would not comment on what size engine will be built in Flint, or whether it will serve as a global engine for the automaker. GM did say the new engine would be part of a new family of engines that includes three-cylinder and four-cylinder variants with displacements ranging from 1 liter to 1.5 liters.

GM said the new gas engine is part of a global engine family that could produce more than 2 million engines annually by the end of the decade. The company said they would offer better mileage and performance and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

The automaker’s Toledo Transmissions Operations will receive $55.7 million to boost capacity and for new tooling to produce an all-new eight-speed automatic transmission and a six-speed transmission that already is produced there.

In May 2011, GM announced it would invest $204 million at its Toledo Transmission Plant to build the 8-speed transmission. GM said Thursday the new eight-speed transmission will be used in “numerous GM vehicles by the end of 2016.”

Bay City Powertrain also will receive $31.7 million, including $19.2 million to make components for the new V-6 engine and $12.5 million to make components for the small gas engine.

GM’s Bedford Powertrain plant in Bedford, Ind., will receive $29.4 million, including $19 million to make components for the small gas engine and $10.4 million for components needed for the eight-speed and six-speed transmissions.

The company also said a new V-6 engine also will be built at the Romulus Engine Plant, which is receiving a $5 million boost to its November 2011 announcement of a $385 million investment for a new fuel-efficient engine. Saginaw Metal Casting Operations also is getting an extra $41 million to make castings for the new V-6. That’s in addition to a $215 million investment announced in October 2011 at the plant.

“The selection of these plants and the opportunity for the United Auto Workers to build the next generation of engines and transmissions reflects the great efforts of our workforce,” UAW Vice President Joe Ashton, who heads the union’s GM department, said in a statement. “This investment goes a long way to ensuring GM remains a marketplace leader and our members can continue to support and share in the company’s growth.”

Since 2009, the Detroit automaker has announced nearly $1.8 billion in investments for the six facilities, Jones said.

Jones would not comment on how soon the automaker would begin making the new investments, nor how soon consumers would see the new engines in vehicles or in which vehicles.

“For competitive reasons, we tend not to share our strategy where our product’s going and in what applications and the timing,” he said.

GM Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson said on an employee call last summer that the automaker was behind the competition on some engines and transmission development.

“We think the investments we’re making will give us a competitive advantage and position us very well,” Jones said.

Crosstown rival Chrysler Group LLC is using eight-speed and nine-speed transmissions in vehicles.

GM builds three-cylinder engines in global markets. The company’s smallest engine built in North America is the 1.4-liter, four-cylinder engine built in Flint.

Ford Motor Co. announced last year that its 1-liter, three-cylinder EcoBoost engine would be offered as an option in the redesigned 2014 Ford Fiesta. Ford builds the engine in Germany.

MELISSA BURDEN, The Detroit News.