General Motors Invests in Diesel Development

by : Anthony Fontanelle

The past years have not been good to the Detroit, Michigan-based General Motors. The company has faced the increasing popularity of Asian-branded vehicles such as Toyota and Honda. Like its peers Ford and Chrysler, General Motors has taken steps to turn the company back to profitability. General Motors has already closed down assembly facilities across the United States to reduce the number of excess vehicles in their showrooms.

Recently though, the company announced that they have earmarked a large sum of money for the expansion of an engine assembly facility in Tonawanda, New York. General Motors announced that they will spend $100 million in the expansion and upgrading of the engine plant in New York. According to the company, the engine assembly facility will be tasked to build fuel-efficient and environment friendly diesel engines.

The $100 million budget will go into retooling the plant for it to produce 4.5-liter V8 Duramax diesel engines. The said diesel engines will be used on General Motors' pickups like the Chevrolet Silverado and the GMC Sierra. The diesel engine will also be the powerplant of future Hummer H2s.

According to General Motors, the Duramax engine will be 25 percent more efficient than a gasoline engine. Not only that, the diesel engine will produce 13 percent less carbon dioxide emissions as compared to existing gasoline engines. The Duramax diesel engine will also sport filtration technologies which will reduce particulate and nitrous oxide emissions by as much as 90 percent when compared to current generation diesel engines.

Part of the $100 million will also be used to renovate a complex covering 200,000 square feet in New York. Aside from retooling the existing engine assembly facility, new machines will also be procured by General Motors as part of the upgrading of the facility. Aside from the initial $100 million investment, General Motors has also earmarked a sum of $41 million for other operations that will support the plant itself.

The renovation and expansion of the existing engine plant will commence later this year. It is expected to be completed by the fourth quarter of 2009 when the production of the Duramax diesel engines will start. According to the car manufacturer, the plant in New York will provide 150 hourly jobs.

"GM is transforming its product portfolio to reduce fuel consumption and emissions, and the 4.5-liter V-8 diesel is an integral part of that transformation, as well as a component of GM's strategy to diversify vehicle energy sources," says John Buttermore, General Motors' Powertrain vice president of global manufacturing. "This will be one of the most efficient and technically-advanced diesel engines, providing a 25 percent improvement in fuel efficiency and 13 percent reduction in CO2 emissions over gasoline engines in this segment - and it does all that while still providing the performance attributes required by customers in the areas of towing and hauling loads."

The Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra, and the Hummer H2 are expected to still use General Motors' outsourcing strategy for other components such as , seatbelt assemblies, and the like.

The expansion of the engine plant will surely be appreciated by the United Auto Workers (UAW). "GM's investment in the Tonawanda plant, totaling $1.6 billion in the last 10 years, is a significant vote of confidence in our employees and UAW Local 774, who have demonstrated their commitment and dedication to benchmark performance that is contributing to the company's turnaround," says Buttermore.