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Published: Monday, 12/16/2013 - Updated: 9 months ago

GM will invest $30M at its Toledo plant

Automaker announces $1.3Bin upgrades at Ohio, Mich., Ind.

BY TYREL LINKHORN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Jeff Roe works on a six-speed transmission. General Motors will invest in Toledo Transmission to upgrade its ability to make six-speed transmissions while preparing to make eight speeds. Jeff Roe works on a six-speed transmission. General Motors will invest in Toledo Transmission to upgrade its ability to make six-speed transmissions while preparing to make eight speeds.
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General Motors Co. said Monday it would spend more than $30 million to boost production capacity at its Toledo Transmission plant, the second significant investment announced for the factory in less than a year.

The automaker also announced plans to build a new paint shop at its Flint, Mich., pickup truck assembly plant, add a 10-speed automatic transmission line in Romulus, Mich., build a logistics center at a Detroit assembly plant, and add new tooling to a casting plant in Indiana.

In all, GM said the investments total nearly $1.3 billion.

“Today’s announced plant upgrades continue the momentum of a resurgent auto industry,” GM’s North America President Mark Reuss said in a statement. “More importantly, these investments add up to higher quality and more fuel-efficient vehicles for our customers.”

In Toledo, a $30.6 million investment will pay for equipment and tooling that will increase production capacity of the six-speed automatic transmissions the plant currently builds.

Company spokesman Bob Wheeler said the investments were necessary for the Toledo plant to keep pace with GM’s product growth and the increasing demand for the transmissions it builds.

“Since we’ve shrunk our footprint we’re pretty specialized in who makes what where,” Mr. Wheeler said. “Toledo is for the most part the premier manufacturing spot for front-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive six-speed and the upcoming eight-speed transmissions.”

Workers at the Alexis Road plant currently build about 5,000 six-speed transmissions every day. The plant runs two 10-hour shifts five days a week.

The eight-speed transmission has yet to launch, but work continues readying the Toledo plant to start production. GM has invested $260 million into the project since 2011, including $55.7 million in April.

It was not clear if the investments announced Monday would create any new jobs in Toledo or elsewhere. GM said only that the investments would “create or retain” about 1,000 jobs, including 127 in Toledo.

GM said Toledo Transmission, also known as the Powertrain plant, currently has 1,890 employees.

Ray Wood, president of the United Auto Workers Local 14, said the union expects some new jobs as result of this expansion and the addition of the eight-speed transmission.

“We just don’t have a real good gauge on numbers now, but we do know there are going to be some jobs created, as well as retained,” he said.

Flint was the biggest winner in Monday’s announcements, with $600 million heading its way for the new paint shop and other upgrades.

Romulus Powertrain Operations will received $493.4 million. Of that, $343.4 million will go toward a new, 10-speed automatic transmission. GM said another $150 million will help increase capacity of a new V-6 engine it announced earlier.

GM CEO Dan Akerson said last year that the company is behind competitors on engines and transmissions. The moves to 10-speed automatic transmissions and the new V-6 engine will help to bridge that gap. Transmissions with more gears help engines operate more efficiently at all speeds.

GM said it has announced more than $10.1 billion in investments in U.S. operations since emerging from bankruptcy protection in 2009. The company said the investments have created or kept 26,500 jobs. The company has added about 3,000 jobs since 2009.

In Toledo, Mr. Wood thinks there could be more good news.

“We expect it to continue,” he said. “We do a good product, a high quality product, and also we’ve never let them down with any schedules or safety [problems]. All the metrics point to them continuing to invest.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.



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