Wednesday 24 April 2013

GM to invest €240 million in testing

Proof that the Millbrook’s Proving Ground’s days are drawing to a close as a permanent General Motors (GM) test facility come with the news that GM will invest €230 million for new testing facilities at its European Product Development Centre at the Opel headquarters in Rüsselsheim and at the proving ground in Dudenhofen.

Rumours have persisted for some time that the famous Millbrook facility in Bedfordshire, UK is to change hands; indeed, it is understood that an announcement only awaits the completion of the lengthy process if due diligence. JaguarLandRover is among companies whose names have been mentioned in connection with this acquisition.

As GM’s investment will be executed in the next three to four years it is to be assumed that GM will continue to hire some of Millbrook’s facilities, including possibly the important test tracks and engineering resources.
The announcement comes just two weeks after GM’s Board of Directors visit of the European Opel/Vauxhall operations and a commitment to invest €4 billion for future product between 2013 and 2016.

The announcement is a further step in GM’s efforts to strengthen its European brand Opel/Vauxhall and – at the same time – GM’s global product development resources by enhancing the company’s overall flexibility, speed and efficiency and investing in to global common tools and equipment. Moreover the investment is a key enabler for Opel/Vauxhall in the development of next generation engines and compliance with European and global emission regulations. The investment also includes a new fuel station, audio lab and safety analysis building.

“This significant investment will last for decades and it will secure the future of the European Product Development Centre,” said Opel CEO and President GM Europe Dr. Karl-Thomas Neumann.

“The development done at Rüsselsheim will be on engines and transmissions for Europe and the rest of the world. This move will give us global responsibility in engine development,” added Dr. Neumann.

New dynamometers for engines will replace older equipment to allow for development of the next generation of powertrains for 2020 and beyond. More than that, flexible test cells to enable improved operational efficiencies will be implemented. This state-of-the-art-lab will then be linked to GM’s powertrain facilities in Pontiac, north-west of Detroit, Michigan, and Torino, Italy. Some of the work at Torino could be devoted to diesel engine enhancement.

As part of the investment, the proving grounds at Dudenhofen will also gain new capabilities, with a soak area, new workshop and vehicle dynamometers for important ultra-low emission testing. This globally common GM-equipment will also allow similar test procedures and comparable data. Among firms likely to be bidding for work will be Horiba Automotive.

On top of that, the management board and the works council earlier this week have agreed to more flexible working conditions at the European Product Development Centre in Rüsselsheim with more than 6,000 highly qualified employees. This accord is based on the Master Agreement from 28 March 2013.

The investment into Opel’s design, vehicle engineering, powertrain operations and human resources further demonstrates GM’s commitment to enhance the local capability to position Opel and its sister-brand Vauxhall for long-term competitiveness and success.

With the additional technical resources and improvements, Opel and Vauxhall will continue to play an important role in designing, engineering and building new vehicles and powertrains for its own brands as well as other players in GM’s product portfolio.

The investment remains subject to approval by the Opel Supervisory Board.

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