GM Teams with Penske for Diesels


General Motors is moving to bulk up its diesel engine programs by signing up some outside expertise.

GM said last week it plans to acquire a 50-percent stake in VM Motori S.p.A., a designer and manufacturer of diesel engines based inCento, Italy, which is now owned the Penske Corp. of Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

While GM and Penske each will own 50 percent of the new joint venture company, GM will have management control. Financial terms of the deal, which is expected to close before the end of September, were not disclosed immediately.

Dan Hancock, vice president of engineering for GM's Pontiac-based Powertrain Group and one of the company's most experienced diesel advocates, said the deal will enable GM to expand the use of diesel engines in the company's future products.

"Diesel engines have a very important role in GM's global advanced propulsion strategy," said Tom Stephens, group vice president of GM's Powertrain Group.

"We are leveraging expertise and resources within our company and through technology partners to ensure we develop the world's best powertrains," he said.

"We need to place a lot of different bets in a lot of different areas," added Hancock, who said GM is pushing ahead with the development of new technology in several areas, including hybrids. "We're trying to outfit the vehicle with the right powertrain for its application," he said.

Hancock said the new emphasis has led to the hiring of additional employees in the engine development area and the construction of a new 450,000-square-foot test center for engines and transmissions, which is under construction in Pontiac and will open next fall.

Work on new 4.5-liter diesel engine GM plans to use in pickup trucks is already underway, as is work on tuning a smaller 2.9-liter V-6 diesel engine designed so it can meet the stringent emissions standards which take effect in 2010 in the United States, Hancock said.

The investment also builds on GM's existing relationship with VM Motori, Hancock noted. GM announced at the Geneva Motor Show it will jointly develop a new 2.9-liter V-6 turbodiesel engine with VM Motori, which is scheduled to appear in the Cadillac CTS in Europe in 2009.

GM's Hancock noted new small diesel engines already power more than half of the new passenger vehicles sold in Europe. GM is a major builder of diesel engines, selling about one million annually, and the company now offers 17 diesel engine variants in 45 vehicle lines around the world, Hancock said.

VM Motori plans to build the new engine at its plant in Cento, Italy, and is responsible for the mechanical aspects of the engine's design, development, and testing.

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