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GM to invest $200M, move 400 jobs to Pontiac, Mich., engine and transmission headquarters

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PONTIAC, Mich. - General Motors will add a wing to its engine and transmission development headquarters in Pontiac, Mich., with hopes of getting new technology into cars and trucks much faster.

The Detroit automaker on Wednesday announced that it would spend $200 million to add 138,000 square feet of new labs in Pontiac, allowing it to consolidate work from four other facilities.

The move won't create any new jobs, but it will bring 400 more positions to the Pontiac headquarters, raising its total employment to 3,900 from 3,500. The positions will be moved from GM facilities in Castleton, Ind., Wixom, Mich., Torrance, Calif., and Warren, Mich. The 400 jobs also include the previously announced move of GM's fuel cell development centre from Honeoye Falls, N.Y., to Pontiac.

Work on the new wing is expected to start in the spring and be finished during the second half of 2014. It's part of GM's plan to invest $1.5 billion in its North American facilities this year.

The company said in a statement Wednesday that the new wing will help speed development of new engines and transmissions. CEO Dan Akerson has said the company is behind competitors on powertrain technology. The company has six-speed automatic transmissions while competitors have up to 10 speeds. More speeds generally make cars and trucks more efficient and perform better.

Sam Winegarden, GM's vice-president of global engine engineering, said the move isn't about creating new jobs, it's about speeding new products to market. "This helps with the ability to do things both faster and more efficiently," he said.

For example, engineers working on a transmission or engine can simply walk down a hallway to get a question answered as opposed to calling someone in a different location and time zone, Winegarden said.

Speedier development is important because most of GM's engines and transmissions will have to be new within the next few years due to stricter government carbon dioxide pollution and fuel economy regulations, Winegarden said.

Shares of General Motors Co. slipped 46 cents, or 1.6 per cent, to $27.99 in afternoon trading. They have traded in a 52-week range of $18.72 to $30.68.

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