General Motors Corp.'s Powertrain division is “80% done” with its all-encompassing North American product-portfolio revamp that should be finished by 2003, says Arvin Mueller, Powertrain's group vice president.

Mr. Mueller tells WAW that GM Powertrain's North American initiatives are combined with ongoing activities in its European powertrain joint venture with the Fiat Group to form a two-pronged global initiative that will deliver world-class, cost-effective powertrains for GM and its affiliates — all in a flexible environment.

Mr. Mueller says this architectural flexibility is being achieved by paring the number of North American volume-engine families to just five:

  • The new and wide-ranging L850 “global” 4-cyl. engine.

  • A “High-Value” V-6 engine family presumably based on the longstanding 3800-series pushrod V-6.

  • A “High-Feature” V-6 engine family that, although GM will not yet confirm the design, is likely to employ an overhead-cam layout and other features to make it fully competitive with import engines.

  • Inline 4-cyl., 5-cyl. and 6-cyl. engines based on the recently launched Vortec 4200.

  • A wide-ranging application of the renowned “small-block” pushrod V-8 currently used in everything from fullsize pickups to Corvette. This engine family ranges in size from approximately 4.8L to 6L displacements.

Mr. Mueller says that GM's impending shift to an increasing number of rear-drive passenger-car architectures — such as the upcoming Sigma platform, which will first be seen this fall underpinning Cadillac's all-new CTS sport sedan — means that the “application flexibility” of the five engine families can be maximized.

The second portion of GM's powertrain strategy is directed through its joint venture with Fiat — an arrangement that covers the total of each company's European and Latin American powertrain operations. The venture also encompasses GM's Adam Opel AG unit and Saab Automobile.

Mr. Mueller asserts that GM and its equity alliances “comprise 24% of world powertrain capacity,” and that much of GM's powertrain efforts outside North America are focused on maximizing that capacity.

GM Powertrain recently adopted an intriguing program called PACE (Powertrain Alliance Capacity Exchange) to leverage that capacity for GM and its affiliates. Mr. Mueller says PACE's goal is to make more powertrain manufacturing “transportable” to enable plants throughout the world with flexibility to produce a wide range of engines for various automakers.