WHITE MARSH – General Motors Corp. Wednesday announced it will invest $118 million to build new two-mode hybrid transmissions for its light-duty trucks at the Allison Transmission plant, creating up to 87 new jobs.
The transmissions will first appear in the 2008 models of the Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade scheduled to debut next year. They will be the first light-duty hybrid transmissions to be designed and built in the United States.
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Rick Wagoner said the new vehicles will be 25 percent more efficient than current models.
“The two-mode hybrid will deliver seamless, dependable power on demand,” Wagoner said.
Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. touted the recent job growth in Maryland when he spoke at the GM news conference, citing a 3.9 percent unemployment rate in December and the thousands of jobs that will be coming as a result of the Department of Defense’s BRAC process. He also said the jobs that will be created are the kinds that ensure citizens’ ability to live a middle-class lifestyle.
“We’ve lived through ups and downs,” Ehrlich said. “This is great news in Baltimore, though we’ve had uneven news nationally.”
Department of Business and Economic Development Secretary Aris Melissaratos agreed with Ehrlich’s assertion that the move is “symbolic of rebirth” in manufacturing in the region.
“Symbolically this puts a stamp of approval, a confidence in the economy in the area,” Melissaratos said. “We’ve been working for this for a long time. This is a next-generation product and we’re quite proud of that.”
If the new hybrid technology is successful in the market, other car companies could pay GM to build the transmissions for their brands, making the technology more profitable for GM, Melissaratos said.
The news provides hope for a company that posted an $8.6 billion loss and announced plans to cut 30,000 hourly wage jobs and in 2005. The Broening Highway assembly plant in Baltimore was also closed in 2005, leaving 1,100 workers to transfer jobs or seek employment elsewhere.
The hybrid transmissions, co-developed with DaimlerChrysler and the BMW Group, will be mated with Vortec V8 engines in the new sport utility vehicles. According to GM, they will increase efficiency by capturing electrical energy through regenerative braking, shutting off the engine during deceleration and idling and utilizing an electric-only launch and drive capability.
The two-mode hybrid system changes to maximize efficiency for either city or highway driving, GM says. When driving at low speeds with light loads, the vehicles can operate with electric power only, engine power only or any combination of electric and engine power. While moving at low speeds in stop-and-go traffic, the engines shut off for extended periods of time, running on only stored electricity, thus reducing fuel consumption.
Prices and production numbers of the new SUVs have not been announced.
This hybrid system has been used since 2003 in transit buses in 29 North American cities, including the District of Columbia, and GM has orders to produce 216 additional hybrid bus systems.
Maryland Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski applauded the company for bringing jobs to the state and said it is “one more step” toward energy independence.
“This is a great day for America,” Mikulski said. “We cannot drill our way out of the energy crisis.”
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