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Published: Tuesday, 7/19/2005

Powertrain in Toledo regains work moved in '95

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

After nearly a decade, General Motors Corp.'s Toledo Powertrain will again be the automaker's lone U.S. plant making four-speed rear-wheel-drive automatic transmissions for vehicles such as Chevrolet's Silverado pickup, TrailBlazer sport-utility vehicle, and Corvette sports car.

A thousand transmissions a day were being made in a facility leased in Romulus, Mich., 10 years ago to help the Toledo plant meet demand. The Romulus facility's 180 employees were told of the upcoming closure June 30, and they will return to GM's Willow Run transmission factory in Ypsilanti, Mich., said GM spokesman Ben Ippolito.

Toledo Powertrain will boost transmission production Monday, prompting the return of all but a few idled workers who will remain on temporary lay off until Aug. 1, said Wanda Montion, plant spokesman.

"It's great news for our plant and for the employees here," she said.

The Alexis Road plant will increase daily production of the transmission from about 7,000 to 7,700, said Oscar Bunch, president of United Auto Workers Local 14, which represents about 3,600 workers at the factory.

Coupled with the addition of heavy-duty versions of the transmission, used on vehicles such as the Cadillac Escalade and Hummer H2 that prompted part of a $35 million investment this year, Toledo Powertrain will build roughly 8,000 transmissions daily starting Monday, Ms. Montion said.

GM also is upgrading the mainstay transmission, adding a sensor that will smooth out shifts and decrease shift times by adjusting to a driver's driving style.

Consolidating U.S. production of the transmission at Toledo Powertrain helps secure the plant's future in the wake of GM's decision to close factories and shed workers by the end of 2008, Mr. Bunch said.

Workers at Toledo Powertrain were upset when GM decided to open the Romulus operation, housed in 345,000 square feet in an industrial park, because they wanted the work to be added in Toledo in case of a market downturn. A few years later, GM started making about 1,000 transmissions a day in Mexico, too, the only other source for the part.

At its peak, Toledo Powertrain was building 8,300 transmissions a day until demand for vehicles such as large SUVs started to wane. The factory had its first layoff in 25 years last December.

Toledo Powertrain's transmission is used on more than 30 GM models worldwide.

Contact Julie M. McKinnon at:

jmckinnon@theblade.com

or 419-724-6087.



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