GM Plants Gain $1.3 Billion Rehab for New V-6, 10-Speed

General Motors announced today it will invest roughly $1.3 billion in five of its manufacturing facilities – notably including one that builds its full-size pickup range, and two others that will soon play a part in building a forthcoming 10-speed automatic transmission.

The investments, which bring GM’s North American manufacturing totals to roughly $11.3 billion since 2009, will allegedly create or retain 1000 jobs.

“Today’s announced plant upgrades continue the momentum of a resurgent auto industry,” Mark Reuss, General Motors' executive vice president and North America president, said in a prepared release. “More importantly, these investments add up to higher quality and more fuel-efficient vehicles for our customers.”

By far, the biggest chunk of today’s $1.3 billion pie is heading to Flint, Michigan, roughly 60 miles north of Detroit. GM’s Flint Assembly plant, which builds heavy-duty variants of the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado and 2014 GMC Sierra pickup trucks and was tooled to have the capacity to build crew-cab versions of the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and 2014 GMC Sierra 1500, will soon receive an all-new paint facility.

The 596,000 square-foot facility will be located just south of the existing plant, and cost nearly $600 million to build. Site preparation will begin in January, but groundbreaking on the facility itself won’t start until the second quarter of 2014. If all goes according to plan, the new paint shop should be complete by October 2016.

Opened in 1949, Flint Assembly is one of General Motors' oldest plants, but it’s also received numerous upgrades in recent years tied to producing full-size pickup trucks. GM sank $7.5 million into updating the heavy-duty truck line in 2008, 4.5 million of which was dedicated to renovating the automation within the existing paint shop. Tooling for the light-duty Silverado/Sierra was added to the plant in 2009, which in turn spurred nearly $27.5 million worth of additional investments between 2009 and 2010. In 2011, GM dumped nearly $328 million into the facility for the new 2014 Silverado and Sierra 1500 models, albeit only in crew cab guise.

According to The Flint Journal, work on the light-duty trucks had been suspended due in part to increased demand for GM’s heavy-duty models. A third shift, assigned solely to Silverado and Sierra HD trucks, was added in late 2011.

The second-largest investment announced today may be the most interesting from a future product perspective. GM’s powertrain production facility in Romulus, Michigan, is the recipient of a $493.4 million overhaul -- $343.4 million of which is dedicated towards tooling the plant for a new 10-speed automatic transmission. Few details on the new transmission have been announced, but the gearbox, developed in concert with Ford, is expected to be a longitudinal design, and rumored to fit in both automaker’s full-size truck platforms.

The Romulus plant will also be responsible for manufacturing a new V-6 engine family, which was quietly announced in concert with other manufacturing investments in April. Details on the new engine range, which could slot in beneath GM’s existing 3.6-liter V-6, are virtually nonexistent, but the automaker seems to expect it to be popular. A $150 million upgrade for the facility is allegedly due to a “projected capacity increase” for the new program.

General Motors' machining plant in Bedford, Indiana will also play a part in manufacturing the new 10-speed transmission. The automaker is spending $22.6 million to tool the facility, which specializes in casting transmission casings along with small engine blocks, for the new 10-speed product. Bedford is also receiving $6.6 million to increase output of parts for 6-speed automatic transmissions – fitting, since GM also announced today that its transmission assembly plant in Toledo, Ohio, is receiving $30.6 million to increase the number of six-speed automatic transmissions built.

Last but not least, General Motors' Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant will soon receive a new $121 million logistics center for handling incoming materials and supplies. The plant assembles the Chevrolet Impala, Volt, and Malibu, the Cadillac ELR, and Opel/ Vauxhall/ Holden Ampera models. GM says the new logistics acility will reduce handling of production components, save nearly $5 million a year, and be completed by the fall of 2014.

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