The gutsy new turbodiesel engines that power the new Holden Colorado ute due to arrive in Australia around June are being produced at General Motors’ “latest and greatest” engine factory.
According to GM Thailand’s Vice President Powertrain David Clarkson, the state-of-the-art diesel engine plant in Rayong, Thailand, which opened in September 2011 and is building new 2.5-litre and 2.8-litre Duramax four-cylinder turbodiesel engines “represents the latest and greatest benchmark for all engine plants for General Motors”.
The new $200million facility is the first diesel engine plant in South East Asia, and the first to produce the all-new four-cylinder Duramax engines that will power the Holden Colorado and ute-based Colorado 7 SUV, due in Australia in early-2013.
The Thai diesel factory, which sits alongside the production factory that builds the Colorado and other Chevrolet vehicles, is capable of manufacturing approximately 130,000 engines per year for local and worldwide markets.
According to GM Thailand the 54,275 square metre facility “has adopted cutting-edge computer and laser-guided equipment to enhance precision and ensure high build quality”.
A tour of the plant last week by Australian motoring journalists, including a sneak peak inside the Quality Lab that uses metallurgical and sediment tests to help ensure quality control, certainly demonstrated the extreme efforts and attention to detail required to build modern, Euro 5-compliant turbodiesel engines.
Based on a modular design, the 2.5-litre and 2.8-litre Duramax engines use the same cylinder block and cylinder head and share many other components, allowing flexibility on the production line to meet demand.
The 110kW/350Nm 2.5-litre engine features a fixed geometry turbo whereas the 132kW/470Nm (with six-speed auto) 2.8-litre turbo-diesel makes use of a variable-geometry turbocharger for stronger performance across the rev band as well as a balance shaft for greater smoothness.
Both feature an aluminum DOHC cylinder head, common rail fuel system, electronic throttle valve and cooled exhaust gas recirculation to enhance performance and help lower emissions.
A drive of both engine variants at the international launch of the Colorado last week showed impressive refinement, quietness and low-down torque, particularly in the 2.8-litre, while both proved reasonably fuel efficient.
The devastating Thailand floods in late-2011 did not as severely affect the diesel engine plant, which sits alongside the production factory that builds the Colorado and other Chevrolet vehicles, with the plant shut down for around four weeks.
Clarkson said the engine facility is considered a ‘Big Three’ plant in that it machines its own cylinder heads, crankshafts as well as assembling the engine. From August, the factory will also produce its own engine blocks, which are currently sourced from Italy.
“Here in Thailand most manufacturers assemble the engine but we also chose to make the additional investment and investment in machinery,” he said.
The Duramax engines are built using 236 parts from 92 factories in 17 countries, including 25 parts from Thailand but none from Australian suppliers.
GM Thailand is already working on a MY14 upgrade of the Duramax powerplants, which promises “significant improvements in performance.” Development work is being shared by GM in Detroit and GM Italy.
“GM Europe are the diesel experts of the world,” Clarkson said.
Classified a “100 per cent landfill free facility” as it recycles or reuses all waste materials, the diesel engine plant is about to ramp up production from two to three shifts, 24 hours a day, six days a week.
“It’s unprecedented for a greenfill plant six months after (beginning) production, to be running around the clock. That’s the sort of demand we’re getting for our new product and this engine,” he said.
The plant employs more than 500 people and is unusual for having a diverse, young workforce with an average age of 24 and 40 per cent females.
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