GM Investing $890 Million to Rework Its Small-Block V8s

2010 Chevrolet Silverado

General Motors is spending some big money to make its V8s more fuel efficient. In the process it will retain or create some 1,600 U.S. and Canadian jobs. The big reason for this move—besides responding to tightening fuel-economy standards—is pickup trucks.

As John Voelcker pointed out, those Silverados and Sierras are by far the General’s most profitable high-volume line, and the company isn’t going to give up those V8s anytime soon. But it has to make them more efficient.

Few details about the new engines were made available, but they will use direct injection, a new combustion system, and aluminum blocks. All will be E85 ethanol capable.

2010 Vortec L9H, as used in the Silverado LTZ

2010 Vortec L9H, as used in the Silverado LTZ

GM’s full-size trucks and SUVs should be the first candidates, but the new engines will likely also go into cars like the Corvette, Camaro, and CTS-V. There aren’t any more details available about the engines or when they might appear or their fuel-economy targets.

We do know, however, that “GM’s passenger cars will have to hit 32.7 mpg in 2012 and increase to 36.9 mpg by 2016.” Targets for light trucks, as I understand it, are assigned according to the vehicle’s footprint (average track width times wheelbase).

Compliance is determined by comparing a manufacturer’s fleet average fuel economy in a model year with a required fuel economy level calculated using the manufacturer’s actual production levels and the category targets.

Yeah, it gets complicated. But one thing is certain: Ford and Dodge both redesigned their trucks and engines a while back, so it was only a matter of time until GM had to follow suit.

If you’re a potential Silverado buyer, say, how big a factor is fuel economy to you?

—jgoods

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