General Motors is moving its unique Performance Build Center to the Corvette assembly plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The build center operation has been located in a 100,000 square-foot facility in Wixom, Michigan, since 2004. A select few engine builders there assemble high-performance V8 engines by hand, including the supercharged LS9 for the Corvette. Some development work into electric motors was also conducted at Wixom, and those efforts will be moved to GM’s Global Powertrain Engineering headquarters in Pontiac, Michigan.
The relocation is part of GM’s efforts to consolidate all powertrain engineering at the massive Pontiac headquarters. Included in theplan is adding a 138,000 square-foot test wing to the facility at a cost of $200 million. The headquarters already boasts some 450,000 square feet of dyno rooms and other advanced powertrain-development tools.
Besides Wixom, other development facilities in Indiana and California will be shut down. The Performance Build Center’s move should be completed by first quarter 2014.
The Wixom plant started building engines in 2005 for the 2006 model year, specifically the 7.0-liter LS7 and the 4.4-liter supercharged Northstar (LC3). Later models included the 505-horsepower 7.0-liter LS7, 6.2-liter LS3 dry-sump and the 6.2-liter LS9, which powers the ZR1 Corvette. The Wixom plant also assembles engines for the limited-production COPO Camaro. Overall, the plant has the capacity to produce up to 15,000 units per year. Statistics for 2011 showed that 1,841 LS3 engines were built along with 1,099 LS7s and 436 LS9s.
Unique to the Wixom plant is a program where select Corvette and COPO Camaro buyers can participate in the build of the engine destined for their vehicle. With the help of expert technicians and after paying an additional fee, the customers actually assemble the engine, starting with a bare block. Buyers of the Chevrolet Performance LS7 or LS9 crate engines can also pay a little extra to build their engines before taking delivery. A GM spokesperson says the customer build experience program will continue at the Bowling Green facility.