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GM announces Tonawanda plant will build new engines for 2019 Silverados

General Motors announced Monday its Tonawanda engine plant will build a new line of fuel-efficient engines for the 2019 Chevrolet Silverados.

The new engines, with Dynamic Fuel Management, will be the most advanced V-8 engines in the brand's history, the car maker said.

"We are extremely proud to have been chosen to continue to build 5.3Ls and 6.2Ls for General Motors' best-selling pickup truck, the Chevrolet Silverado," Tonawanda Engine Plant Director Ram Ramanujam said at a news conference Monday morning. "It's a testament of the talented team and highly skilled workers that we have at Tonawanda Engine Plant.

"It's great for the plant," Ramanujam continued. "It really shows their belief in the skill set of the workforce."

The announcement follows up on GM's announcement in December 2016 that it would invest $328 million at its plants in Tonawanda and Lockport, a move that safeguarded the future of the plants.

At that time, GM said it would invest $296 million in the Tonawanda site for a new engine line, but it did not provide any details about the engine. The investment would enable the plant to retain 854 jobs and create 67 jobs, GM officials said.

Monday, officials said the $30 million investment in the new engine line won't bring new jobs to the plant, but would protect 635 existing jobs there. The investment in the new engines is only a small part of GM's $296 investment at the Tonawanda plant, and two more announcements are expected next year, GM officials said.

The Tonawanda engine plant has about 1,700 employees.

"UAW 774 members at the Tonawanda Engine Plant are extremely proud of the confidence GM and the UAW Leadership has in us to be the lead plant in this technology that is first of its type in the auto industry," said Chuck Herr, shop chairman for Local 774.

"It's not a mistake that we are the launch plant because Tonawanda has a long history of building quality engines," Herr said.

The new engines will feature industry-first cylinder deactivation technology that enable them to operate in 17 different cylinder patterns to optimize power delivery and efficiency.

The new engines will allow the engine to run on anywhere between one and eight of its cylinders, depending on the demand for power and speed at the current driving condition. That's an improvement under GM's existing Active Fuel Management technology, which has been in use since 2005, that can alternate between four and eight cylinders.

Using fewer cylinders during more of the time that the engine is in use will improve fuel economy, although GM is not saying by how much at this point, Ramanujam said.

During a test, the 2019 Silverado two-wheel drive pickup with the 5.3 liter engine operated with fewer than eight active cylinders more than 60 percent of the time, 9 percent more than a comparatively equipped 2018 model, according to GM.

The Dynamic Fuel Management system in the new engines continuously monitors movement in the accelerator pedal and can calculate 80 times per second how many cylinders are needed to meet the driver's requested torque, said Michael Fonte, the launch operations manager for the new engine.

"The increased variability of Dynamic Fuel Management means the engine will operate more often with a reduced number of cylinders, which saves fuel across the board," said Jordan Lee, Small Block chief engineer.

EPA fuel economy estimates for the 2019 Silverados and towing/payload capacities were not available Monday. They will be announced closer to when the pickups go on sale this fall.

$328 million investment a relief for workers at General Motors

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