GM agrees to build new mid-size hybrid, 6-speed transmission in Canada

With a federal election coming soon in Canada, the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper has begun to liberally spread the pork. The most recent example is a deal that will relieve General Motors of Canada from the repayment of $200 million in previous government loans in exchange for new investments in plants in Oshawa and St. Catharines Ontario. GM Canada will install a transmission assembly line at its engine plant in St. Catharines to build 6-speed automatic transmissions. GM has also committed to building a hybrid version of a new mid-size sedan at the Oshawa assembly plant. Over in the discussion forums at GM Inside news there is speculation that this could finally be a hybrid rear wheel drive sedan based on the Zeta platform that is used for the Camaro that is also being built in Oshawa.

Unfortunately for enthusiasts, this is an unlikely scenario and here's why. The transmissions to be built in St. Catharines will be front-wheel drive units. GM probably chose to build them there in part because of the proximity to Oshawa so they will probably be used there. All recent indications from GM are that the previously planned RWD replacement for the Impala built at Oshawa will never happen. Instead, an updated front wheel drive model with the 6-speed will be assembled. The 2010-11 timing of the launches does correspond with the second generation GM mild hybrid system which could be used with the 6-speed rather than the far more expensive two-mode system. Given the market and CAFE realities, a direct injected, turbo four cylinder, front wheel drive Impala with a second generation mild hybrid is probably what we'll see from Oshawa in early 2011.

[Sources: Industry Canada, Globe and Mail, GM Inside News]

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