TodayApril 17, 2022

GM, Ford New front-wheel-drive plant

GM, Ford announces $720 million investment to build all-new front-wheel-drive transmission

Ford Motor Company and General Motors Corp., two of the world’s largest automakers, today jointly announced a $720 million investment in their plants to build an all-new, fuel-saving, 6-speed front-wheel-drive (FWD) automatic transmission. More than 1,100 jobs will be retained as a result.

The transmission initially announced in October 2002, will be jointly designed, engineered and tested by the automakers. It will be built separately at GMs Warren (Mich.) transmission plant and Fords Van Dyke (Sterling Heights, Mich.) and Sharonville (Ohio) transmission plants.

Tom Stephens, group vice president, GM Powertrain, and Dave Szczupak, vice president, Ford Powertrain Operations, made the announcement this morning to the Southeast Michigan Automotive Press Association at the Max M. Fisher Music Center in Detroit.

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, also in attendance, praised the automakers for their cooperative effort and the retention of 900 jobs in Michigan.

“This partnership between Ford and GM will strengthen Michigans manufacturing might and affirm Michigan’s place as the world leader in automotive technology,” Granholm said. “It is this kind of visionary cooperation that will truly drive Michigans 21st century economy.”

To manufacture the transmission, GM is investing $350 million and Ford is investing $370 million. The investments include new equipment, tooling and facilities upgrades at their respective plants.

The new 6-speed is expected to offer up to four percent improvement in fuel economy over traditional 4-speed automatic transmissions available in today’s front-wheel-drive cars. Production is scheduled to begin at both companies in 2006 for FWD and all-wheel-drive passenger cars and sport-utility vehicles.

Ford Van Dyke plant will build major components and assemble the transmission. Its Sharonville plant, the company’s new center of excellence for gear machining, will manufacture the gears for Ford transmissions.

GMs Warren plant will build major components and assemble GM 6-speeds. GM partnered with UAW leaders, the city of Warren and the state of Michigan to retain more than 500 jobs in Warren.

“This new transmission will be a great product, and we are looking forward to producing it at the Warren plant where management, union, and employees are working to make it a success,” said Stephens. “The investment underscores GMs commitment to keep Michigans auto industry and communities world class and strong.”

Ford partnered with UAW leaders and the cities of Sterling Heights and Sharonville, retaining up to 400 jobs at Van Dyke and 250 at Sharonville. “This is an important transmission for Ford, the UAW, our Van Dyke, and Sharonville plants and our customers,” said Szczupak.

“Six-speeds are the future,” said Szczupak. “They help to optimize power, smooth operation and fuel economy. This is why they are going to become more prevalent. Twenty-five years ago, the average American was driving a car with a 3-speed automatic, so this is a trend worth noting.”

Working together allows both companies to bring the transmission to market faster while cutting costs. Each company is responsible for integrating the transmission into its own vehicles. The powertrains will be distinct in feel and performance because the transmissions will be mated to different engines.

Plant Background

GMs Warren plant was purchased in 1960 by GM, has more than 2 million square feet and employs almost 1,700 people. The plant builds 4-speed FWD automatics, transmission stampings and torque converters for GM cars and trucks.

Ford’s Van Dyke plant opened in 1968, has 2 million square feet and employs more than 1,900 people. The plant builds 4-speed FWD automatics for the Ford Focus, Taurus, Freestar and Mercury Sable.

Ford’s Sharonville plant opened in 1958, has 2.4 million square feet and employs more than 2,200 people. Today, the Sharonville plant builds 5-speed and 4-speed automatics for Ford, Lincoln, Mercury and Jaguar rear-drive sedans and SUVs. In November, Ford announced a $155 million investment at the plant to produce gears for a new rear-drive 6-speed automatic to debut in 2005.

Lou Ann Hammond

Lou Ann Hammond is the CEO of Carlist and Driving the Nation. She is the co-host of Real Wheels Washington Post carchat every Friday morning and is the Automotive, energy correspondent for The John Batchelor Show and a Contributor to Automotive Electronics magazine headquartered in Korea. Hammond is a founding member of the Women's World Car of the Year #WWCOTY, and board member of the Women in Automotive.

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