GM Upgrading Transmission Plant


The grande dame of transmission plants – General Motors Toledo, Ohio, facility – is getting a massive facelift for her 90th birthday. GM says it will invest $500 million to expand and upgrade the 1.8 million-square-foot plant to produce a new six-speed, rear-wheel-drive automatic transmission for full-size SUVs and trucks.

The expansion is part of a GM mission to produce 3 million six-speed automatics annually by 2010 – all of them promising better performance and greater fuel economy, and all filled with long-lived Dexron-VI transmission fluid. Six-speed automatics are available now in some low-volume, high-performance sports cars and luxury sedans, such as Corvettes and Cadillacs, but GM has earmarked them for rapid introduction into its high-volume mid-size vehicles, beginning with the 2007 model year SUVs.

The 6L80, which holds 12.3 quarts of transmission fluid, is already being produced at GMs Ypsilanti, Mich., transmission plant. On Feb. 14 GM said it would invest another $152 million to boost production there, too. That plant already produces the 6L80, and has been filling it with Dexron-VI since last April.

Six-speed transmissions play a key role in GMs continuing commitment to build exciting yet fuel-efficient products that our customers desire, said John Buttermore, GM Powertain vice president of manufacturing.

In Mondays announcement, the automaker said the Toledo investment will include a partial facility renovation and a 400,000 sq.ft. expansion, plus new machinery, equipment and tooling for the six-speed transmission work. An additional $100 million will be spent for vendor tooling, containers and investments at other locations that support the Toledo operation.

Construction at Toledo is set to begin in July, with the first 6L80s scheduled for production there in late 2008. Toledo Transmission originally opened in 1916, and moved to its present location in 1955.

The new rear-wheel-drive Hydra-Matic 6L80 is one of six new six-speed designs GM is bankrolling. GM also is gearing up to launch a smaller, front-wheel-drive six-speed, the Hydra-Matic 6T70, which it co-developed with Ford Motor Co. That design debuts this summer in the new 2007 Saturn Aura midsize sedan. It holds 9.5 quarts of Dexron-VI fluid, and is built in Warren, Mich.

Common to all of GMs transmissions is the fluid they will use, which was developed by GM together with Petro-Canada and Afton Chemical Corp. The durable fluid is designated as RDL-3434 for factory fill, and trademarked and licensed for the service-fill market as Dexron-VI.

Licenses for the prior service-fill fluid, Dexron III(H), are set to expire at the end of this year, after which only Dexron-VI products will be approved for licensing, GM has said. Dexron-VI has twice the friction stability of Dexron-III, as well as greater oxidative stability. GM has said it expects Dexron-VI to be a fill-for-life fluid, capable of going 100,000 to 150,000 miles in all applications.

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