General Motors Corp. announced capital improvements estimated at $215 million for retooling at its Saginaw (MI) Metal Casting Operation, an aluminum foundry that produces engine blocks and cylinder heads. GM did not detail the improvements, but it said the investments anticipate “future engine block and head casting work,” and would create or retain about 275 jobs. Presently, the Saginaw plant has about 630 workers.

Earlier this month General Motors explained it would be replacing three series of small engines with a new, modular version of the Ecotec design. Production of those new, 1- and 1.5-liter, three- and four-cylinder engines will begin by mid decade, with the goal of producing 2 million engines per year by 2020. A new small-engine program has been indicated in several of GM’s recent facility improvement announcements, and the automaker said the new global engine family is part of its strategy to reduce engineering and manufacturing complexity and cost.

GM said the new engines were co-developed with Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. (SAIC), Shanghai General Motors (SGM), and the Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center (PATAC).

Speaking at Saginaw, Diana Tremblay, GM’s global chief manufacturing officer, said: “We look forward to continuing our long and proud heritage of in-house casting for key components. We believe these operations really enhance our ability to provide more fuel-efficient engines to our customers around the globe."

Since May, GM has announced a series of capital investments that amount to a $2-billion plan for 17 different plants. Included among these are GM’s foundries at Defiance, OH, and Bedford, IN. At Defiance, a $47-million project will install new tooling and equipment that will increase capacity for engine parts, for the Ecotec 1.4-liter engine, as well as for the new small block car and truck engines.

In 2010 the Defiance foundry was selected for a $187-million investment to add capacity for casting, finishing, and pre-machining, including a new precision sand molding line for the Ecotec 1.4-liter engine and the new three- and four-cylinder small-block and truck engines.

At Bedford, a $49-million program
is planned to produce parts for GM’s forthcoming eight-speed transmission and the new small engine program.