By TOM KRISHER
DETROIT (AP) â¿¿ General Motors plans to invest $332 million into four factories in three Great Lakes states to build new, more efficient engines and transmissions.
The spending at plants in Toledo, Ohio; Bedford, Ind.; and Flint and Bay City, Mich., will allow the company to build a new V-6 engine, a new small motor and new eight-speed automatic transmissions, GM said Thursday. The company also added $46 million to a prior investment at plants in Romulus and Saginaw, Mich. to build the new V-6.
No jobs will be added, but GM said the investments preserve 1,650 jobs at the six factories.The investment also will help GM build more six-speed automatic transmissions as auto sales continue to rise in the U.S. Sales this year are expected to climb as high as 15.5 million cars and trucks, 1 million more than last year. Through March, GM sales are up just over 9 percent. GM wouldn't give details about the new engines and transmissions, nor would it say what cars and trucks would get the new powertrains. It also wouldn't say exactly when they would be available, for fear of tipping competitors to its product plans. The company did say that the money will help start a new family of three- and four-cylinder engines that range from 1 liter to 1.5 liters. Presently the smallest motor GM makes in the U.S. is a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder that goes into the Chevrolet Cruze and Sonic, as well as other models. Last summer CEO Dan Akerson told employees that the company was behind its competitors in engines and transmissions, saying that GM has six-speed transmissions when competitors have up to 10 gears. Transmissions with more gears allow engines to do less work and save fuel. The investments announced Thursday should improve GM's technology in relation to its competitors, said Arvin Jones, GM North America manufacturing manager. "We think the investments we're making will give us a competitive advantage and position us very well," he told reporters.