After investing $450 million to prepare its Willow Run plant for the production of a new six-speed automatic transmission, GM has started production of the first in a new generation of transmissions. The new transmission, known by the alphanumeric designation 6L80, will be used in rear- and all-wheel-drive vehicles. The 6L80 is designed to handle the increased power requirements of GM's more powerful vehicles like the Corvette, the Cadillac STS-V, XLR-V, and its full-size SUVs and trucks. The new transmission in is the first in a series of new transmissions aimed at helping to reduce fuel consumption, as much as 4% according to GM, and improve performance. One of GM's upcoming front-wheel drive six-speed transmissions is expected to debut in the new Saturn Aura. GM's automatic transmission division Hydra-Matic is known for its durable, flexible four-speed units, which at one time found their place in the vehicles of other makes, including more prestigious manufacturers like BMW and Rolls Royce. The Willow Run plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan, currently produces the previous generation of four-speed transmissions and the move to produce the new six-speed has saved nearly 600 jobs out of the 3658 currently employed there.
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