Manufacturing

General Motors announces investments in plants, 3D printing facility, GM Defense center

The new Additive Industrialization Center will be home to GM's 3D printing efforts.

Photo courtesy of General Motors

General Motors is in the midst of making a number of announcements regarding facility openings and investments. The latest news reveals that a new facility dedicated to 3D printing has just opened in Michigan; two GM engine plants, one in New York and another in Ohio, are getting upgrades; and subsidiary GM Defense is renovating a center in North Carolina for production.

Additive Industrialization Center

The 15,000-square-foot Additive Industrialization Center (AIC) has opened in Warren, Michigan. The center is new from the ground up and dedicated to the production of 3D parts that will be used throughout the GM lineup. GM is calling the center the "capstone" of their expertise.

"The core component of GM's transformation is becoming a more agile, innovative company, and 3D printing will play a critical role in that mission," said Audley Brown, GM director of Additive Design and Materials Engineering. "Compared to traditional processes, 3D printing can produce parts in a matter of days versus weeks or months at a significantly lower cost."

Inside the facility are 24 3D printers, which create polymer and metal solutions. Machines inside AIC are able to conduct selective laser sintering, selective laser melting, Multi-Jet Fusion, and fused deposition modeling. These technologies will be used to validate various applications for the parts in future vehicles, such as the Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing and CT5-V Blackwing. Chevrolet's race cars have also been trying out the parts.

Additionally, AIC is using the tech to create parts for retooling GM's production facilities. For the launch of the 2021 Chevrolet Suburban and Tahoe, GMC Yukon, and Cadillac Escalade, GM"s 3D printing team printed nearly 100 hand tools. Normally, these tools would be made of aluminum and weight 10 to 40 pounds each. The new designs, printed using carbon fiber, weigh as little as three pounds and have

$76 million plant investment

General Motors engine plant Tonawanda New York Buffalo

The GM Tonawanda powertrain plant produces a number of engines for GM's trucks and SUVs.

Photo courtesy of General Motors

GM plans to invest $70 million into its Tonawanda, New York engine plant and over $6 million into its Parma, Ohio metal stamping plant. These manufacturing-related investments are being made to support demand for the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks.

The Tonawanda investment will be used to increase capacity on the engine block machining line and the Parma investment will be used to construct four new metal assembly cells to support increased truck production volumes.

GM's New York plant currently produces the 4.3-liter V6, 5.3-liter V8, and 6.2-liter V8 family of engines for the Chevrolet Silverado, Suburban, and Tahoe; GMC Yukon and Yukon Denali; and Cadillac Escalade. It also builds the 6.6-liter V8 for Chevrolet Silverado HD and GMC Sierra HD pickups. The SUV models have all been completely redesigned for the 2021 model year, a move that is likely to spur increased sales in the model line.

The Tonawanda engine plant is home to approximately 1,300 employees. The plant's hourly workforce is represented by UAW Local 774.

Ohio's Parma Metal Center processes over 800 tons of steel per day and services and supports approximately 35 customers, including the majority of General Motors North America produced vehicles. The plant is capable of producing up to 100 million parts per year.

The plant employs approximately 1,000 employees. Hourly employees are represented by UAW Local 1005.

GM Defense renovates North Carolina technical center

GM Defense Concord North Carolina

GM is repurposing its Technical Center in North Carolina.

Photo courtesy of General Motors

GM Defense LLC, a subsidiary of General Motors, has begun renovations of an existing GM building in Concord, North Carolina to support the production of the Infantry Squad Vehicle (ISV). The company recently showed off the vehicle, which was part of the contract to create an agile all-terrain troop carrier. GM Defense won the $214.3 million contract for the production of the vehicles from the U.S. Army in June 2020 and the first ISV was delivered in October.

Construction at the 75,000-square-foot facility is expected to continue into early spring, with vehicle deliveries expected to begin in April. The facility will help to manufacture 649 ISVs and will support the production of up to 2,065 vehicles with additional authorization over eight years.

The location of the facility puts it near Hendrick Motorsports, which is already a Chevrolet partner for its various racing teams. Hendrick Motorsports is responsible for providing the chrome-moly steel exoskeleton of the vehicle frame, including the ISV ROPS system.

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No, it didn't snow in June.

GMC

Testing trucks is always fun. Well, to be honest, testing any vehicle is fun and is absolutely a privilege, but I absolutely love putting trucks through their paces. My most recent tester was the 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4, a factory off-road model with style and substance. Let's take a look at what makes it tick.

Off-Road-Ready Truck With a Stout Powertrain

Key upgrades here include a two-inch factory lift kit with Rancho Monotube Shocks, Goodyear Mud-Terrain tires mounted on 20-inch wheels, a two-speed automatic transfer case, and a traction select system with off-road and towing settings.

The net effect of all that gear is impressive. The AT4 rides as smoothly as many crossovers and maneuvers with relative ease for a truck its size. In town, there's little distinction in driving manners between this beefy off-road pickup truck and most family haulers, as long as being taller than nearly everyone else in traffic is ok with you. The truck handles well, and exhibits little instability over bumps at speed, which is a common challenge with pickup trucks and off-road vehicles.

My test truck was equipped with the optional 3.0-liter Duramax turbodiesel and a ten-speed automatic gearbox. With 277 horsepower and a stout 460 pound-feet of torque, it's the perfect companion for a truck meant to climb over and out of gnarly obstacles on the trails. In daily driving scenarios, the engine is quiet and refined, and shows little of the rattly, noisy diesel sound many people expect from the engines. With plenty of torque on tap, the AT4 feels somewhat lively, and is able to navigate traffic with ease. Reaching highway speeds and passing once there is also a breeze, and the truck remains surprisingly peaceful on the interstate.

Comfy Interior and Useful Bed Features

Inside, my test truck came equipped with leather upholstery and optional heated/cooled front seats. We had a rare heat wave in Maine during my week with the truck, and its powerful air conditioning combined with the cooled seats to create a much-needed oasis for this rare brutal week in northern New England. The front seats are wide and well-padded, but I found myself shuffling around, wanting more in the way of hip and thigh support. There's a tendency to slide to one side of the seat and stay there, which could easily be solved with a bit more bolstering on both the seat back and bottom.


2021 GMC Sierra AT4 The Sierra's cabin is comfortable and well-made.GMC


As all of my vehicle testing adventures do, the week with the AT4 involved plenty of kid transport. The full-size pickup's back seat is wide and flat, which makes it ideal for installing car seats, but I can't imagine that it'd be extremely supportive for an adult over a long-haul trip. The truck's lift means it's hard for kids to climb in, but they had a fun time trying. The novelty may wear thin over time, but it lasted for the week we had the AT4. Once inside, the kids (and anyone else in the back seat) had their own air conditioning vents and plenty of room to stretch out in their booster seats.

Normally, a truck bed would be an afterthought in a review, but GMC has gone to lengths to make its bed a standout. The Carbon Pro composite bed material is tough, as in there's no need to worry about throwing whatever you want into the bed tough. I hauled over 100 30-pound patio paver blocks over the course of a few trips, and never felt the need to add extra protection to the bed after the first trip. I tossed an old rug and some flat cardboard to protect the bed at first, but it proved to be as stout as GMC claims. Adding functionality is the MultiPro tailgate, which offers several options for steps and different cargo hauling situations. It makes an excellent step, and when the center section is folded down, it opens up much more access to the bed when standing on the ground. My tester also had an optional Bluetooth speaker system built right into the step system, which would make for an awesome camping or beach party.

Tech-Heavy Cabin

In terms of tech, the Sierra AT4 is up to speed but nothing to write home about. Its optional 8.0-inch touchscreen runs wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto with an option for wired connections. There's also Bluetooth, SiriusXM Radio, and more. It's a cohesive system that is easy to use and intuitive, made even easier by clever behind-the-steering-wheel-mounted controls that allow volume and track adjustments. My truck also had an optional head-up display, which unsurprisingly is extremely difficult to see with polarized sunglasses. This is a common issue not unique to GMC, and could be solved by switching to non-polarized glasses.


2021 GMC Sierra AT4 The MultiPro tailgate adds ultimate functionality.GMC


Most advanced safety equipment is optional, and when I say most, I mean all. The Sierra AT4, and all Sierras for that matter, is available with automatic emergency braking, a bed-view camera system, forward collision alerts, front pedestrian braking, a front/rear parking assist system, blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, lane departure warnings, and more. While I get the need to differentiate models with various features, the lack of some of these safety items is hard to swallow at nearly $60,000.

Bottom Line

I tend to become infatuated with full-size pickup trucks while I have them in for testing, but that feeling typically fades after a while. The Sierra AT4 was a little different. The diesel engine and comfortable interior make for a supremely daily-drivable pickup truck, and the Carbon Pro bed with multi-function tailgate makes a strong case for the GMC. Ultimately, it's too much truck for me, but it's a solid choice for those that can put it to work.

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The 2022 Acura TLX has the technology enabled.

Photo courtesy of Acura

Toyota and Lexus announced that the WarnerMedia RIDE app would be coming to their models earlier this year. Now, Honda and Acura will be offering the same.

On certain Wi-Fi enabled Honda and Acura vehicles, AT&T unlimited in-car Wi-Fi users will have access to the WarnerMedia RIDE app. The app allows users to connect multiple devices in their vehicles to browse, stream and share premium content from the WarnerMedia library while on the road.

Honda and Acura vehicle owners have been able to use their on-board modem as a hot spot for connecting up to seven devices since 2017. Models compatible for the new tech include the Acura RDX (2019-present), Acura TLX (2021), and Acura MDX (2022) across all trim levels. Honda vehicles with the tech include Accord (2018-present, Touring), Odyssey (2018-present; Touring, Elite), Insight (2019-present, Touring)., Passport (2019-present; Touring, Elite)., and Pilot (2019-present; Touring, Elite, Black Edition).

The WarnerMedia RIDE App allows passengers to access 1,000+ hours of live and on-demand entertainment. The app includes hit TV shows and movies from top brands such as Cartoon Network, CNN, HBO Max, TBS, TNT and TruTV, spanning animation, entertainment, news, sports and more.

WarnerMedia RIDE app The WarnerMedia RIDE app allows users to choose their own avatar.Photo courtesy of Acura

Users can set up profiles and personalize their user exerpience with an avatar from the WarnerMedia library. Profiles also ensure age-appropriate content with options for adults to restrict access to their profiles with an access code.

"Wireless connectivity and connected car services continue to be key features for customers and our long-standing relationship with AT&T continues to be one way we deliver exciting new content to Honda and Acura owners," said Art St. Cyr, vice president of North American Auto Strategy for American Honda. "Honda will continue working to enhance the in-car experience, including the capabilities of the AT&T network and access to top content with WarnerMedia RIDE."

"We're always looking for new and innovative ways to elevate the connected car experience for our customers. With WarnerMedia RIDE, we are delivering a connected experience that's perfect for journeys," said Joe Mosele, vice president, Mobility & Internet of Things, AT&T. "Our collaboration is keeping Honda and Acura owners connected wherever they travel with hours of news and entertainment for the whole family."

WarnerMedia RIDE is available now in the App Store and on Google Play for all U.S. unlimited data plan subscribers. WarnerMedia RIDE is included at no additional cost for existing and new unlimited subscribers.

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