Inaugurating production Oct. 3 of its all-new 4-cyl. engine family at the Global Engine Manufacturing Alliance (GEMA) in Dundee, MI, GEMA and DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group executives promise the engine-manufacturing joint venture between DC, Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. will be a model of lean-manufacturing productivity.

Although manufacturing of production engines officially began in October, GEMA president Bruce Coventry says the first GEMA 4-cyl. engine will be seen early next year powering the '07 Dodge Caliber, a compact hatchback that replaces the Neon in the Dodge lineup. That engine, a 2.4L DOHC unit with variable valve timing, represents the largest of the 3-engine global 4-cyl. family that includes 1.8L and 2L variants.

For Chrysler, the GEMA-built 4-cyl. engines for now replace the Neon's longstanding but outmoded 2L DOHC 4-cyl. and, eventually, the 2.4L variant used in several Chrysler-brand models.

Tom LaSorda, Chrysler Group president and CEO, also says the GEMA-made 4-cyl. engines could be used in a new generation of Jeep-brand cross/utility vehicles — which so far have been shown only in concept form — if those future Jeeps are approved for production.

Globally, the new GEMA engines also will serve as the next generation of 4-cyl. powerplants for a variety of Hyundai and Mitsubishi products. The global 4-cyl. engines also are manufactured at GEMA facilities in Asan, South Korea and Shiga, Japan.

Mitsubishi plans to begin taking engines built in Dundee for the '09 model year, an executive says. Shiro Futaki, MMC member on the GEMA board of directors, tells Ward's the plan is to use the Dundee built 4-cyl. mills in next-generation Mitsubishi vehicles made at the auto maker's sole North American plant in Normal, IL.

Original plans called for MMC to begin taking Dundee engines in summer 2006, but financial troubles at the auto maker forced a delay of the vehicles that will use the engines.

Meanwhile, Conventry says the manufacturing ramp-up in Dundee will be “aggressive.” The site will reach its capacity of 420,000 units in about 11 months, he says. A second plant here — an almost exact replica of the current facility — will begin production about this time next year, Coventry adds.

Although the second Dundee plant has capacity for another 420,000 units, Coventry and LaSorda say the alliance has committed to only about 620,000 of the potential capacity of 840,000 units for both plants producing at full volume. The decision on whether to tool plant No.2 for the final 200,000-odd engines will come later this year, says LaSorda, and will be based on the alliance's judgment of market conditions.

If all five GEMA plants are fully utilized, annually producing 1.8 million 4-cyl. engines, it will be the world's largest engine-manufacturing program for a single engine family, Coventry says.

The full 420,000-unit capacity of plant No.1 here is earmarked solely for Chrysler products. Although its new Sonata midsize sedan is built in the U.S., Hyundai has yet to commit to sourcing powerplants from the Dundee GEMA plant, instead importing Korean-built 4-cyl. engines from the new global 4-cyl. family LaSorda and Coventry stress the flexibility of the two plants' design as crucial to their ultimate efficiency. Conventry says the plants are capable of building any mix of the three engine variants and can adjust almost instantly, thanks to production lines comprised exclusively of computer numerically controlled (CNC) machines that are key to quick and easy adaptability. If both Dundee plants are fully utilized, Conventry says there will be nearly 1,200 flexible manufacturing machines in operation.

Coventry says the new all-aluminum 2.4L 4-cyl., which develops 170 hp and 165 lb.-ft. (224 Nm) of torque, rivals the output of small V-6s.

The 4-cyls. built in Dundee will contain 82% domestic content by cost.
with Christie Schweinsberg