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GM Investing $65 Mil to Boost 4-Cylinder Engine Production

Fuel prices driving shift in buyer demand.

by on Jun.20, 2011

General Motors Tonawanda Powertrain employee Tim Battaglia works on an Ecotec I-4 engine.

Rising fuel prices have triggered a marked shift in what motorists are buying these days, especially when it comes to engine choices – and that has prompted General Motors to invest more than $65 million in plants in New York and Tennessee to expand production of the Ecotec four-cylinder engines used in Chevrolet’s most fuel-efficient cars and crossovers.

While GM has continued offering 6-cylinder powertrains on many models, rising demand for four-cylinder designs is leading to aggressive shifts in both vehicle design and production plans.  Some mainstream makers, such as Hyundai, are all but abandoning sixes in midsize and smaller offerings.

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“GM is committed to investing in manufacturing and jobs in the U.S.,” said Cathy Clegg,GM’s vice president of labor relations during an announcement at the maker’s Tonawanda plant, in New York. “These investments in powertrain manufacturing technology will help us meet the growing needs of our customers for high quality, fuel efficient vehicles – both today and in the future.”

The Tonawanda plant’s additional capacity will help meet demand for engines used in the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain crossovers. Both vehicles get 32 mpg on the highway and can travel up to 600 miles between fill-ups. GM is investing $33 million that will create or retain 100 jobs.

The Spring Hill, Tennessee plant, meanwhile, is adding capacity for direct-injection four-cylinder engines to support increased production of the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu. GM Is investing $32 million that will create or retain 63 positions.

The next-generation Malibu is scheduled to start production in early 2012. It will be sold in about 100 countries on six continents. Chevrolet will begin sales in the United States with the Eco, the most fuel-efficient Malibu ever. It features GM’s 2.4L Ecotec with eAssist technology.  Malibu will debut an all-new 2.5L Ecotec engine next summer. The new Malibu will be assembled at the Fairfax Assembly plant in Kansas City, Kan., and Detroit-Hamtramck plant in the United States, as well as other plants around the world.

“With gas prices becoming increasingly unstable, investment in new powertrains is vital if GM wants to be competitive,” said Joe Ashton, UAW vice president-GM Department.  “Our customers want vehicles that get great gas mileage and our members have proven they can build innovative products that exceed our customers’ expectations.”

The Tonawanda and Spring Hill investments are part of $2 billion in U.S. manufacturing investment GM announced May 10 that will create or retain 4,000 jobs in 17 facilities in eight states. These investments are in addition to $3.4 million GM has invested in U.S. manufacturing facilities since July 2009, adding or retaining more than 9,000 jobs.

GM also announced the Saginaw Metal Casting Operations will export aluminum castings for the lightweight Ecotec 2.4L engine that is used in fuel-efficient vehicles sold overseas, including the Opel Antara and Chevrolet Captiva. The Saginaw work will create or retain 53 jobs, GM officials said.



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