General Motors has opened a new diesel engine plant in Rayong, Thailand. The US$200m facility, which is adjacent to the automaker’s vehicle manufacturing plant, represents GM’s most significant powertrain investment in Southeast Asia.

The Rayong facility is GM’s first diesel engine plant in the region and is also the first in the world to produce GM’s all-new family of Duramax four-cylinder diesel engines.

GM says the highly flexible plant has the capability to manufacture approximately 120,000 engines per year for use in vehicles built in Thailand and other global markets. GM expects to source US$94m worth of Thai-built components for the production of engines at its Rayong facility by 2012.

The first engines to be manufactured by the facility will be installed in the new Chevrolet Colorado pickup that will be produced in Rayong following engineering development work and retooling of the vehicle assembly line.

The opening of the facility comes a month after GM announced that it will invest US$150m in the reactivation of its Bekasi manufacturing facility in Indonesia for production of a new line of people movers for Southeast Asian markets. The new powertrain facility takes GM’s investment in Thailand to US$1.3bn since 1998.

GM Southeast Asia President Martin Apfel was joined by Dr. Witoon Simachokdee, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Industry, Government of Thailand, and Michael L. McGee, Commercial Counselor, U.S. Embassy Bangkok, for the inauguration of the new plant.

“GM is committed to growing our footprint and business throughout Thailand and Southeast Asia,” said Apfel. “Our engine plant will enable us to deliver on our promise of bringing cleaner, more efficient and higher-performance diesel engine technology to our customers.”

“Producing engines locally strengthens our commitment to the development of a strong Thai automotive industry, which can help guide the growth of the entire Southeast Asian region. It is also a sign of the excellent talent in the local industry and our faith in their capability,” he added.

The new powertrain facility, which will have 500 employees by the end of the year. GM says it has adopted computer and laser-guided equipment to enhance precision and ensure high build quality. Flexibility in production means that it can switch between production of 2.5-litre and 2.8-litre engine variants in line with market demands.

GM Thailand has also employed advanced environmental-protection processes throughout the facility, including using lighting that consumes 40 percent less energy compared with regular systems.

The newly developed 2.5-litre and 2.8-litre diesel engines are the newest members of the Duramax truck-engine family. They feature overhead cams, turbocharging and durable aluminium cylinder heads for high levels of refinement and durability.

The four-cylinder Duramax engines were tested in extreme conditions in Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and South America. They meet the advanced Euro IV emission standard and can be used in front-, rear- or all-wheel-drive applications.

Additionally, GM says they were subjected to the same rigorous validation process as the Duramax 6.6-litre turbo diesel, which is sold primarily in North America. More than 1.3m Duramax 6.6-litre engines have been sold since 2001.