DETROIT - General Motors is integrating its powertrain operations around the world into one unified organization. Responsibility for different powertrain components will be assigned to regions with special expertise:
GM Europe will be the lead group for small-displacement engines and manual transmissions.
Saab will be responsible for turbochargers.
North America will take charge of large-displacement gasoline engines and automatic transmissions.
Isuzu Motors in Tokyo will have the lead responsibility for diesel technology.
The goal is to build products that can be shared around the world. The company hopes to be more responsive to each regional market, improve quality and lower costs.
GM currently has 11 families of engines in North America and five outside North America. The number of families is not likely to be reduced, said Ned McClurg, general manager of engineering operations for GM Powertrain.
GM takes an average of 30 months to bring new engines and transmissions to market. McClurg wants to reduce that to 18 months.
'Capital is not the most serious constraint,' McClurg says. 'It is getting the powertrains out in a timely manner and to suit each region's needs.' The most time-consuming part of each project is to develop computer controls capable of coordinating the actions of both the engine and transmission.
The new L850 four-cylinder engine shows the direction GM is headed with its new powertrain group. The engine was developed in Europe at a cost of about $1.3 billion. It will be built in the USA at GM's Tonawanda, New York, plant.
Tonawanda will supply about 800,000 vehicles in Europe and North America.
'The L850 provided us with experience in global sourcing, global design, global teamwork and communication among GM units,' said Arvin Mueller, a GM vice president and group director who will head the new global powertrain operation.
Mueller will report to both Lou Hughes, president of GM International Operations, and Rick Wagoner, president of North American Operations. GM Powertrain will be headquartered in Pontiac, Michigan.
McClurg does not expect any plant shutdowns or jobs losses to result from the merger. It will take about a year. Until then, the international and North American operations will run in parallel.
Powertrain sales were about $13 billion worldwide in 1996. About $650 million was to Jaguar, BMW, Daewoo and Isuzu.