Stellantis NV on Thursday announced a $229 million investment in three Kokomo, Indiana, plants in a move it said would help accelerate its electrification plans.
The investment, which the transatlantic automaker said would retain 662 jobs, will fund the retooling of the three plants to produce electrified eight-speed transmissions. The next-generation transmissions can be used in internal combustion, mild hybrid or plug-in hybrid vehicles, consistent with the automaker's strategy of producing a mix of gasoline-powered, hybrid and all-electric vehicles as it strives to reach 40% low-emission vehicle sales in the U.S. by 2030.
"This investment and this transmission represent an important stepping stone in getting us to 2030 and further expanding our battery electric offerings," Brad Clark, head of powertrain operations at Stellantis, said in a statement. The new transmission is a "versatile" one, he said, "that can be adapted for a variety of applications, allowing us the flexibility to adjust our production as consumer demand for electrified vehicles grows over the next decade. It also offers consumers the opportunity to get familiar with this technology and explore all of the benefits that can come from electrification.”
Slated for retooling to produce the fourth generation of the company's eight-speed transmission are the Kokomo Transmission, Kokomo Casting and Indiana Transmission plants. The transmissions workers build there will be used in vehicles across the Jeep, Ram, Chrysler and Dodge brand lineups, according to the automaker, which in January formed from the merger of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and PSA Group.
According to Stellantis, Indiana Transmission employs 1,473 people, Kokomo Casting employs 1,238 and Kokomo Transmission employs 3,280.
In a statement, United Auto Workers Vice President Cindy Estrada, who directs the UAW-Stellantis department, dubbed the investment "a result of the hard work and attention to quality that the UAW–Stellantis workforce has demonstrated over the past years."
"During the 2019 negotiations the UAW negotiators made it a priority that as we transition into the next generation of vehicles and powertrains the UAW members must continue to build these great products," she said. "The commitment to building these multi-tool transmissions will enable Kokomo UAW members to continue the quality transmissions used in today’s gas and hybrid technology while preparing for electric vehicles and new technologies far into the future."
The eight-speed transmission built in Kokomo is the current option on the Jeep Wrangler, Gladiator, Grand Cherokee, Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer; Ram 1500; Dodge Charger, Challenger and Durango; and Chrysler 300.
Stellantis claims the new transmission will deliver better fuel economy, provide pure-electric range and help the company meet future government emission regulations.
The announcement comes three months after Stellantis spelled out its long-term electrification strategy, in which it committed to investing nearly $35.6 billion through 2025 in electrification and software initiatives. The commitment marked a major step in CEO Carlos Tavares' efforts to bring together and electrify 14 brands under the umbrella of the world's fourth-largest automaker.
The company expects plug-in hybrid and fully-electric vehicles will make up more than 40% of its sales in the U.S. and 70% in Europe by 2030. Jeep by 2025 will have a fully-electric offering in each of its segments. Dodge will introduce its first fully-electrified muscle car by 2024. Ram's first all-electric truck is slated to arrive in 2024.
And the automaker previously said it expects to have electrified options, including plug-in hybrids, for nearly all of its nameplates by 2025 and fully battery-electric options across all models by 2030.
Stellantis executives, Republican Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, United Auto Workers Region 2B Director Wayne Blanchard and local elected officials and community leaders were slated to visit Kokomo Transmission Plant to mark the occasion Thursday.
“As our industry continues to change, our focus must continue to be on our most valuable asset — our people,” Clark said in a statement. “This transmission program will bring new opportunities for our current workforce, as well as the manufacturing workforce of the future.”
In March 2020, what was then FCA announced a $400 million investment to convert the Indiana Transmission Plant II to the Kokomo Engine Plant to build the GMET4 engine, a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder turbo offered in the Jeep Wrangler and Cherokee. Production on that powerplant, which is being moved from Italy, is slated to launch later this year. The plant had been idled in fall 2019.
At the time of the GMET4 announcement, company executives said the engine would play an important role in the automaker's electrification plans.©2021 www.detroitnews.com. Visit at detroitnews.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.