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GM taps $1 billion to update 5 plants

– Five General Motors factories in three states will soon share in a $1.3 billion investment so they can make higher-quality pickup trucks and new fuel-efficient engines and transmissions.

GM says the money will go to the Flint, Mich., assembly plant; an engine plant in Romulus, Mich., near Detroit; a transmission factory in Toledo; and a casting plant in Bedford, Ind. Most of the work will be done during the next two years.

It’s unclear how many jobs the investment will create. GM would say only that it will create or keep 1,000 positions.

Nearly half the money, $600 million, will go to the Flint factory for a new paint shop and other upgrades. The plant makes the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks.

GM also will spend $493 million at its Romulus engine plant so it can build a new V-6 engine and 10-speed automatic transmissions that will make vehicles more efficient.

About $121 million will go to set up a manufacturing logistics center at the Detroit-Hamtramck factory, and $31 million will go to the Toledo transmission plant so it can crank out more six-speed automatic transmissions.

In addition, the Indiana plant will get $29.2 million to make parts for the 10-speed transmissions and for six-speed transmission components.

The investment continues GM’s momentum in a resurgent auto industry, GM North America President Mark Reuss said. “More importantly, these investments add up to higher quality and more fuel-efficient vehicles for our customers,” he said.

Reuss said at an event in Flint that the investments are important in all the plant cities, but especially so in Flint, the company’s birthplace.

“It’s a good business move, yes, but it also will keep the community intact and growing again,” he said. “It’s a community that is very important to us.”

GM CEO Dan Akerson said last year the company is behind competitors on engines and transmissions. The moves to 10-speed automatic transmissions and the new V-6 engine will help to bridge that gap. Transmissions with more gears help engines operate more efficiently at all speeds.

GM says it has announced more than $10.1 billion in investments in U.S. operations since emerging from bankruptcy protection in 2009. The company says the investments have created or kept 26,500 jobs.

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