General Motors announced a number of investments in its manufacturing facilities earlier this morning, but by and large, the big news centers around its assembly plant in Toledo, Ohio. That facility will serve as one of the first manufacturing bases for a new eight-speed automatic transmission, which was also officially announced this morning.
A whopping $204 million will go to the 54-year-old Toledo Transmission plant, adding more than 250 jobs to work on GM’s newest innovation: a new fuel-efficient eight-speed transmission. Up to now, the highest ratio-count transmission the company has offered in non-commercial domestic vehicles has been six, although the company did reveal concepts at the Shanghai Auto Show, such as the Buick Envision, that contained an eight-speed. The Toledo plant currently builds both longitudinal and transverse six-speed automatics, Chevrolet Cruze and Chevrolet Malibu, among other models.
An early pioneer in the development of automatic transmissions, GM was relatively late to the game in the development of advanced automatics in the past decade, sticking with proven four-speeds when many of its competitors were rolling out five, six and even seven-speed automatics. With today’s announcement, GM may well be at the forefront yet again, with only Chrysler’s rumored nine-speed transmission besting its number of speeds.
“We are doing this because we are confident about demand for our vehicles and the economy,” GM Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson said in a prepared release. “GM has been working closely with the UAW, and with this investment, both the company and union are getting a net positive from the deal for providing thousands of jobs.”
GM representatives refuse to provide any sort of further detail on the transmission, noting “we had to fight even to say it’s an eight-speed transmission.” However, sources close to the program tell us the initial launch involves a longitudinal design, and production should reach full swing by 2014. If so, that leaves few North American applications for the design, other than GM’s range of rear-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive trucks. Expect further details to be announced in the months (and years) to come.
Macroscopically speaking, GM’s manufacturing investment will total nearly $2 billion, and according to the company, will help create or retain nearly 4000 jobs across 17 facilities and eight states. The first of those announcements came last week, when officials announced the plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky — home of the Chevrolet Corvette — will receive a $131 million overhaul before it begins building the C7 ‘Vette.