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GM Tonawanda builds last of engine assembled since '99

General Motors' Town of Tonawanda Engine Plant has bid farewell to an engine it had produced since 1999, as it moves on to new products.

A crew of 13 employees built the final Ecotec 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine Wednesday, bringing the total to 4,149,000, according to GM. The plant has built more than 70 million engines since starting production in 1938.

All of the 2.4-liter engine assembly line employees are shifting to one of the two new engine lines at the plant: the 2.5 liter/2-liter turbo, or the Generation V V8, which is set to enter production early next year.

The latest product that the Ecotec 2.4-liter engine went into was the 2012 Chevrolet Malibu. Previous versions of the 2.4-liter, including the 2.2-liter, went into the Chevy HHR, Impala, Cobalt and Saturn Ion.

"I couldn't be prouder of this team," said plant manager Steve Finch, in a statement. "They sacrificed going to the new businesses with other team members so they could be a part of this final buildout. And they did it perfectly, with zero quality issues from our direct customer, the Fairfax Assembly Plant.

The Tonawanda plant will continue to make 2.4-liter blocks, heads and cranks for export to China through the first quarter of 2013, GM said.

The plant in late August wrapped up production of the Inline 4 and 5 engines that went into the 2012 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon pickup trucks.

In a sign of the Tonawanda plant's recent resurgence, 40 employees from the GM Components Holdings plant in Lockport will transfer to the Tonawanda site Oct. 1 to help support the new product lines. The Tonawanda plant presently has 1,018 hourly and salaried employees.

mglynn@buffnews.com