No sooner had employees at Flint Engine Operations reached one milestone – 1 million 1.4-liter engines produced – that transition began to production of a new global engine for the next-generation Chevrolet Cruze and Volt.
Flint Engine, which opened in 2002, is in the midst of a $200-million upgrade that will see 1.4-liter engine production end this week and the new Ecotec small gas engine production start by year’s end.
“Attaining 1 million engines produced is always an important milestone,” said Terri Burden, Flint Engine plant manager. “But this is particularly special because it comes as we prepare to launch an engine that will be a key part of GM’s global engine program for many years to come.”
When production of the 1.4-liter engine began in Flint in early 2011 for the current Volt, Cruze and Chevrolet Sonic, the engine was already part of a venerable engine line that had global roots.
The all-new Ecotec small gas engine will be built in eight engine plants in six countries, including Flint, producing 2.5 million engines a year by 2017. To date, only the Volt (1.5 liter) and Cruze (1.4 liter turbo) have been announced as recipients of the Flint-built engine.
“One million engines! Our Local 599 members are proud of this accomplishment, as we built a superior quality 1.4-liter engine that has been a success for our customers, as was our tremendous 3800 engine,” said Dave Aiken, UAW Local 599 chairman. “As we launch the Ecotec small gas engine our team is ready and able to build an engine that will also prove to be a leader in quality and performance for many years to come.”
The launch of the Ecotec started shortly after the April 2013 investment announcement in the Flint plant. Following a similar path as their assembly plant colleagues, Flint Engine employees – both hourly and salaried – formed a launch team that would spend months working with GM engineers and employees in Michigan, Mexico and Japan.
“Flint is GM’s first engine plant to embed its own hourly workers in the powertrain pre-production process,” said Jim Stack, operations launch manager at Flint Engine. “Having Flint employees working side by side with the engineers and pre-production teams allows us to streamline production processes and improve product quality before production begins in the plant.”
At the same time, the launch team was working on the new engine, construction crews were installing new equipment and prepping the plant for the transition that will take place this fall.
Once production of the 1.4-liter engine ends this week, the facility will complete installation and testing of equipment with the first production engines heading to GM’s Lordstown, Ohio, assembly plant for the Chevrolet Cruze before the end of the year. Volt production will begin later in 2016.
Throughout the transition, Flint Engine will continue to produce the 3.6-liter engine for the Chevrolet Colorado and Traverse, GMC Canyon and Acadia and Buick Enclave. Employees who build that engine, which surpassed 1 million units in 2013, are represented by UAW Local 659.