General Motors Corp. kicks off a new era in hybrid-electric vehicles with the production launch today of its jointly developed 2-Mode Hybrid transmission at the Baltimore Transmission Plant in White Marsh, MD.

The hybrid transmission was developed with the former DaimlerChrysler AG and BMW AG and will bow on ’08 Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon fullsize SUVs that arrive on the market later this year.

Chrysler LLC will employ the unit in its Dodge Durango and Chrysler Aspen SUVs, and the transmission potentially will be used in upcoming BMW and Mercedes vehicles, as well.

The 2-Mode is the only hybrid transmission designed and built in the U.S. by a major auto maker, GM says. It’s also the first developed specifically with fullsize light trucks in mind.

Production of the Tahoe Hybrid and Yukon Hybrid will get under way next month at GM’s Arlington, TX, assembly plant.

Next year, the Baltimore plant will add production of hybrid transmissions for five additional vehicles, including the Cadillac Escalade SUV and Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra Crew Cab fullsize pickups, GM says.

In addition to GM, the facility also will supply Chrysler, which will build its Durango and Aspen hybrids at its Newark, DE, facility.

“This 2-Mode Hybrid transmission is not only shifting the gears in the ’08 Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon Hybrids, it’s also helping shift GM’s efforts to reduce gasoline consumption and emissions into overdrive,” John Buttermore, GM Powertrain vice president-global manufacturing, says in a statement.

“Better yet, here in Baltimore, we are showing that an American workforce is up to the task and can take the lead in advanced technology.”

GM says more than 500 U.S.-based engineers and more than 350 hourly workers are assigned to the 2-Mode program, and more than 75% of the transmission’s suppliers, or 72 of the 91 total, are U.S.-based and operate in 16 states.

The auto maker poured $118 million into the Baltimore Transmission Plant for new tooling and machinery and an additional 100,000 sq.-ft. (9,290 sq.-m) of floor space.

The facility, which opened in 2000, employs 415 hourly and salaried workers and also builds the Allison 1000 Series automatic transmission used in GM’s heavy-duty trucks.