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Published: Tuesday, 11/13/2007

New work UAW goal at Toledo GM plant

BY MARK REITER
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

The possibility that new transmissions products will be built at General Motor Corp.'s Toledo Powertrain isn't stopping Ray Wood from trying to bring additional work to the factory on Alexis Road.

Under the new national labor contract ratified last month by the United Auto Workers, the plant could land work to make transmissions for hybrid-electric rear-wheel-drive vehicles as well as transmissions for Chevrolet Corvettes.

The contract calls for the Toledo plant, which employs 1,800 hourly workers, to be considered for planned transmission products of the rear-wheel-drive "Gen II Hybrid" in 2011 or 2012. It is in the running for production of the rear-wheel-drive, dual-clutch transmission for the Corvette in 2012.

If the new products are made here, it is unclear whether additional workers would be hired, said Mr. Woods, president of UAW Local 14 at the plant.

"Our goal is protect our current employees and try to get ourselves positioned for new workers," he said.

The local factory has consistently placed in the top of the Harbour Report annual rankings for productivity among U.S. transmission facilities from any automaker.

Wanda Montion, a GM spokesman, said the company doesn't discuss allocation of products to plants.

David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, said the technology being implemented by GM for hybrid-gasoline vehicles could create many jobs for the automotive industry.

"The bottom line is that a lot of stuff is going on in the transmission area," he said. "I think you will find that GM is up to their noses in every technology you can think about."

Mr. Wood said the union will work to secure additional transmission production as product plans become available.

"If there are opportunities to get more work, then we are going to make a pitch to GM officials," he said.

GM is investing more than $832 million in the plant to make more fuel-efficient six-speed transmissions. The company is adding 400,000 square feet to the 1.8-million-square-foot factory to house new equipment to build a six-speed, transmission for rear-wheel-drive vehicles beginning in late 2008.

A front-wheel-drive version of the better performing transmission will begin in early 2010. The four-speed rear-wheel transmissions made at the plant are to be phased out in 2011.

At the height of production, the plant was making about 8,300 units a day. It now turns out about 3,700 a day, Mr. Wood said.

The first generation of GM's transmissions for rear-wheel-drive hybrid vehicles will be launched next month for full-sized sport-utility vehicles.

The automaker's two-mode, gas-electric system allows the vehicles to be powered by electricity alone at low speeds, with electricity kicking in to assist the gasoline engine at high speeds.

Contact Mark Reiter at:

markreiter@theblade.com

or 419-724-6096.



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