Two of Detroit’s Big 3 Revamp Facilities for New Production

Manufacturing operations for two of the largest domestic automakers are getting revitalized and reworked to handle production of new models.

This may not mean the return of every job that was lost during the last few years of downsizing, layoffs and reorganization, but it does mean that the two Detroit automakers are doing what they promised to do. Old facilities badly in need of modernization will be getting facelifts, chiefly to become ready for production of greener, cleaner vehicles more in line with new U.S. fuel efficiency standards.

Ford recently announced that it will be sinking around $135 million into new Detroit-area facilities for the manufacturing of hybrid transaxles and lithium-ion battery packs needed to outfit the new hybrid and all-electric vehicles it plans to have available for sale in 2012. In doing so, Ford says it will be creating 220 new jobs.

It seems the new trend during the recovery of the automobile industry will be “in-sourcing” as domestic companies work toward becoming increasingly self-reliant when it comes to parts and electric propulsion system development. Ford currently uses a plant in Mexico to assemble its battery packs but this new investment means that assembly will be moved to the Rawsonville, Michigan plant. The company’s hybrid transaxles, now manufactured in Japan, will soon be made here in Detroit at the Van Dyke transmission plant.

Vice president of the UAW union’s National Ford Department, Bob King, said, “I am proud of the tremendous success of the United Auto Workers and Ford in working together to keep good manufacturing jobs in the U.S.”

Meanwhile, General Motors Company is going ahead with its own plans to invest in new and revitalized facilities in Michigan, also for electric vehicle development. GM is investing $43 million in a new plant in Brownstown Township for the manufacturing of lithium-ion battery packs for the Chevy Volt extended-range EV. The factory will begin production in the fourth quarter and will take on production of batteries for future EREVs. GM estimates the new facility will create 100 new jobs.

GM also reported in April that it will be doubling the size of Global Battery Systems Lab in Warren, Michigan, at which it employs a team of over 1,000 engineers dedicated to electric-propulsion technology and battery development.

A recent partnership with the University of Michigan has also brought a new battery lab to the campus in Ann Arbor, along with an advanced curriculum in the College of Engineering to encourage future engineers’ specialization in the field of automotive battery technology.

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