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GM Tonawanda engine plant riding wave of demand for trucks, SUVs

Lots of Americans are buying trucks and SUVs, and that means busy times for General Motors’ Town of Tonawanda engine plant.

Its production of a “Generation V” engine supporting those vehicles is doing “really, really well,” plant manager Steve Finch said during a meeting with The Buffalo News editorial board.

That line is operating with three shifts each weekday, plus two out of three shifts each Saturday. Production of four-cylinder engines at the GM Tonawanda complex is on a two-shift, five-day-a-week schedule “but it’s pretty steady,” Finch said.

“The way we measure how well we’re doing is whether we’re working and producing a lot of volume, and by that measure right now, we’re doing extremely well,” he said. “A lot of factors are coming in to make the auto industry very strong.”

Add it all up, and the Tonawanda plant expects to produce about 636,500 engines this year, roughly the same as last year. The total might actually end up a bit higher.

The Tonawanda complex is a cornerstone of the region’s manufacturing sector, with nearly 1,700 hourly and salaried employees. In the past decade, GM has poured about $2.6 billion into the Tonawanda complex, including improvements for the two engine lines. The engines the site’s workers produce are shipped to GM vehicle assembly plants around North America.

Amid all the current activity, the Tonawanda plant has its eye on attracting future work. A four-year national contract with GM that UAW members approved last November pledged an unspecified amount of new investment in the Tonawanda site.

Finch said no announcements involving GM Tonawanda have been made yet.

“We’re just kind of waiting for all of the programs and everything that are going to be announced to see what happens for us at Tonawanda,” Finch said. “What I tell employees all the time is, ‘Let’s not give the corporation a reason to rethink the decisions that may be coming our way. Let’s make sure our performance is as good as it possibly can be and we’re at the right spot at the right time when those decisions and announcements are made.’”


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