Why GM is investing $100 million to boost transmission output for full-size pickups

DETROIT—General Motors plans to invest a combined $100 million in a propulsion plant and a casting facility to boost full-size pickup transmission capacity.

GM will invest $93 million at its Romulus, Mich., propulsion plant to increase machining capability and $7 million at its Bedford, Ind., casting operations to add die casting capability, GM said in a statement Thursday.

The investments will back additional production of GM’s 10-speed automatic transmission used in the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra light-duty pickups. Sierra sales rose 8.9 percent to 253,016 vehicles last year, and Silverado sales grew 3.2 percent to 594,094 vehicles.

“Demand for our Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra full-size pickups continues to be very strong and we are taking action to increase the availability of our trucks for our dealers and customers,” Phil Kienle, GM vice president of North America manufacturing and labor relations, said in the statement.

Bedford Casting builds transmission casings, converter housings, heads, and small gas engine blocks, and Romulus builds V-6 engines and 10-speed transmissions. Since the plant began producing engines in the 1980s, it has built more than 6.6 million V-6 engines and more than 10.8 million V-8 engines, GM said.

Terry Dittes, director of the UAW’s GM department, said in a statement that the investment reflects GM’s commitment to the UAW members in Bedford and Romulus.

Dave Cavotta, plant director at the Romulus facility, said in a separate statement that the investment shows the pride workers have in the products they build.

“With the support of this team and the leadership of UAW Local 163, Romulus GPS will continue the great work and success that led to this investment and will help support our business as well as our community,” he said.

GM said this week that it will prioritize production of full-size pickups, SUVs and electric vehicles as the industry faces a global shortage of microchips.

The shortage will reduce 2021 earnings by $1.5 billion to $2 billion before interest and taxes, GM said. The automaker extended production cuts because of the chip shortage at plants in Kansas City, Kan.; Ingersoll, Ontario; and San Luis Potosi, Mexico, through at least mid-March. GM will build vehicles at plants in Wentzville, Mo., and Ramos Arizpe, Mexico, but leave them incomplete for final assembly later.

The global chip shortage on Thursday became an issue for the Biden administration to address.

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