GM Gearing Up U.S. Engine Plant for Volt, CruzeBy Michelle Krebs September 24, 2008
By Bill Visnic
FLINT, Michigan - A symbol of the times: General Motors Corp. recently shuttered its historic engine plant here that produced a once-cornerstone of the company's engine lineup, a V-6 of 3.8 liters.
Replacing that in a $370-million investment that brought rousing cheers from a large crowd here is a fuel-stingy four-cylinder engine that at 1.4 liters is almost one-third the size. And one of the models the new engine will help power: the high-profile Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle - a model which itself has emerged as a symbol of GM's promise to be at the vanguard of alternative-energy transportation.
Announcing the investment in the new engine plant here, GM CEO Rick Wagoner took the stage to thunderous applause from United Auto Workers members in a town that has in the past been savaged by the company's wrenching moves to adjust to changing market conditions. Construction of the plant will begin next month, and the 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engines - along with a turbocharged variant that also serves important duty in powering the crucial Chevy Cruze compact car - will begin production in 2010.
GM says the plant to produce the engine for the Volt and Cruze proves the company "Remain(s) committed to Michigan and the U.S. GM is here to stay and today we celebrate the evidence," said Wagoner. Flint was promised the new engine work as part of a seminal contract reached with the UAW almost one year ago.
"We are proud that General Motors has chosen Michigan as the best place to develop and produce the revolutionary Volt and other next-generation vehicles and components," added Michigan Governor Jennifer M. Granholm, also on hand to announce the new plant's construction.
Tom Stephens, GM executive vice president of global powertrain and global quality said when it comes on line in 2010, the plant will be GM Powertrain's most flexible and most efficient. Some 300 flexible-machining and -assembly stations will impart an unprecedented degree of manufacturing agility. To be constructed in two modules, the plant's initial volume will be 800 engines per day.
GM sources say the plant also will be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified and completely landfill free.
The 1.4-liter 4-cylinder for the Volt will serve as the car's "range-extender" powerplant, meaning it will operate only when the Volt has exhausted the capacity of its lithium-ion batteries. When the batteries are depleted, the engine starts and serves as a generator to provide electricity for the Volt's electric propulsion motor.
The turbocharged variant of the engine, slated first for the Cruze - which replaces today's Cobalt compact car and also will be built in the U.S. - is expected to produce a healthy 140 horsepower and 148 lb.-ft. of torque. Despite power that challenges the much larger 2.2-liter 4-cylinder engine in the Cobalt, Stephens said with the smaller but turbocharged new 1.4-liter 4-cylinder, "We expect the Cruze to be a fuel-economy leader in its segment."
The 1.4-liter engines to be built at the new Flint plant are part of GM's existing "Family 0" engine range, which was launched in 1997. It includes a 1-liter 3-cylinder and 1.2-liter and 1.4-liter 4-cylinders. The turbocharged variant is new to the Family 0 range.
Photos by General Motors
1- GM Chairman Rick Wagoner announces the automaker's investment in a new engine plant in Flint, Mich.
2 - A turbocharged 1.4-liter 4-cylinder will power the Cobalt-replacing Chevy Cruze in the U.S. and is expected to give "class-leading" economy.
3 - Chevy Cruze will be built in the U.S. as GM's new-age answer to the Honda Civic and Ford Focus.