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Published: Wednesday, 5/2/2007

Toledo Powertrain ahead of schedule

BY MARK REITER
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Freshly poured cement is smoothed for a new floor inside the part of the factory undergoing renovation. Freshly poured cement is smoothed for a new floor inside the part of the factory undergoing renovation.
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A multimillion-dollar expansion of the Toledo GM Powertrain Plant for production of a better-performing six-speed transmission is ahead of schedule.

Wanda Montion, a plant spokesman, said yesterday that GM officials are shooting for the project to be finished in October, 2008, with production on the new transmission line to begin immediately thereafter.

Construction on the 400,000-square-foot addition began nearly a year ago and is part of a $600 million investment at the West Alexis Road facility.

The addition to the 1.8 million-square-foot facility will allow the 50-year-old plant to build the smoother-operating transmission for rear-wheel-drive vehicles that will help GM boost fuel economy and assure a future for its 2,600 employees.

About 900 Toledo Powertrain workers will be trained on new tools and processes to begin making the new transmission.

GM is producing the transmission elsewhere and using it in vehicles such as the Chevrolet Corvette and GMC Yukon and Denali sport-utility vehicles as well as an array of Cadillac cars and SUVs.

Susan Garavaglia, another GM spokesman, said the automaker plans to have 10 variants of the six-speed transmission available for its

Old walls come down inside the plant on West Alexis Road. Old walls come down inside the plant on West Alexis Road.
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Susan Garavaglia, another spokesman for GM, said the automaker plans to have 10 variants of the six-speed transmission available for use in its vehicles by 2010, when it will make as many as 1.8 million units a year.

"We have launched seven of the 10 variations for the 2007 model year," she said. "It provides a smoother shifting feel, a quicker acceleration from the launch, and improved performance and fuel economy."

Currently, about 4,700 four-speed transmission are built at the plant each day. They were introduced in 1978 and 1989 and are to be phased out and replaced by 2011.

The expanded facility will operate with fewer than two-thirds of the nearly 3,450 employees who were working there in February, 2006, when the Toledo plant was picked for the new transmission line.

Ms. Montion said about 1,300 workers have taken buyout and early-retirement packages that GM began offering last year to its U.S. workers in a move to cut costs and trim its work force by 30,000 by 2008.

After the six-speed transmission goes into production, Ms. Montion said, Toledo GM Powertrain will continue making four-speed transmissions, which are used in trucks and SUVs.

Contact Mark Reiter at:

markreiter@theblade.com

or 419-724-6096.



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