The past week has been a largely positive one for General Motors--an uncommon thing given the last couple of years' worth of bad news. First they announced early repayment of their bankruptcy loans (we'll set aside the source of the repayment funds for now) and today they've announced $890 million worth of plant upgrades--and a large part of the focus will be on the next-generation small-block V-8 engine family.
Fuel efficiency is the main goal, with direct injection, an "all-new advanced combustion system design," and all-aluminum blocks. The lighter, more technologically advanced engines will improve fuel consumption, and they'll also be universally E85 capable. GM's also looking to future-proof the new small-block, stating that it's being designed "with the capability to meet increasingly stringent criteria emissions standards expected throughout this decade."
If that all sounds like a lot of generalization without much in the way of specifics, you're hearing it right. Nonetheless, the plans are being laid to help keep GM abreast of the competition in the pickup field in particular.
Ford is prepping a twin-turbo V-6 EcoBoost version of its F-150, and Toyota is likewise expected to make moves to employ efficiency-enhancing technology for its next-gen trucks. Chrysler's Ram brand (nee Dodge) is moving forward with the 5.7-liter HEMI for the present, leveraging its multi-displacement system (MDS) cylinder deactivation for improved cruising efficiency. New corporate partner Fiat's upcoming Multiair technology is also expected to help Chrysler products make gains in the future, though that's likely several years out yet.
In short, GM's next-gen small block will have its job cut out for it just keeping up with the Joneses, let alone the ever-harsher CAFE and emissions regulations being dished out. But it looks as though GM is preparing for exactly that.
Stay tuned for more details on the next-generation of Chevy and GMC truck V-8s as GM moves forward with their development--we'll bring you the latest news as it breaks. For more on GM's overall powertain and plant upgrade plans, check out John Voelcker's article at GreenCarReports.