General Motors Co. will pour $185 million into a former Saturn car plant in Spring Hill, Tenn., to make a new generation of small gas engines to power some of its bestselling small cars and crossovers.
The new engine factory line is a key element of the automaker's plan to launch an all-new “Ecotec” engine family that is to be used by five GM brands, in 27 models, by the 2017 model year.
“The new Ecotec engine family represents the most advanced and efficient small displacement gasoline engines in GM’s history,” said Arvin Jones, GM North America manufacturing manager.
GM is looking to produce smaller, more-efficient engines as a way to meet increasingly tough fuel-economy and emission standards in the U.S. and abroad, said Jack Nerad, an analyst with car shopping company Kelley Blue Book.
Meeting the regulations “is a difficult task” that will require the use of engines that can be melded into efficient hybrid power trains and more turbo-chargers, which increase the power output from conventional engines, Nerad said.
GM’s new Ecotec portfolio is to include 11 engines, in three- and four-cylinder variants, ranging from 1.0 liter to 1.5 liters in size. They are to include turbocharged versions that will produce 75 horsepower to 165 horsepower.
Spring Hill, which is south of Nashville, will become one of six global manufacturing locations that will produce the new engine line. GM will spend an additional $48.4 million at its factory in Bedford, Ind., to make castings to support the engine production.
The Spring Hill factory already makes engines, including Ecotec engines of 2.0 liters to 2.5 liters that power such vehicles as Chevrolet’s Malibu and Impala sedans.
GM also said it plans to build the next-generation Cadillac SRX midsize crossover at the Spring Hill factory. The current SRX is built in Mexico.
The shift in production for the SRX represents a win for the United Auto Workers, which is trying to bring auto-assembly jobs back to the U.S.
“GM’s investment today is a huge testament to its confidence in Spring Hill’s workers, and is a great example of the economic opportunities we’ve been able to create here in Tennessee as a result of the collective bargaining process,” said UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada.
The factory was home to GM’s Saturn brand, which was shuttered in 2009 as part of the automaker’s bankruptcy and restructuring. GM has been gradually ramping up operations at the factory.
Besides engines, workers at the factory assemble one version of the Chevrolet Equinox crossover. The factory has about 2,300 workers.