Moraine’s fortunes with auto manufacturing have waxed and waned, but one company has been an engine of growth for decades, and its growing again.
DMAX Ltd., a 60/40 joint venture between General Motors and Isuzu Motors, manufactures Duramax 6.6L Turbo Diesel engines that power heavy-duty Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra trucks. It’s one of the largest employers in the city already with 800 workers in the Dayton region, having built 2.15 million engines as of April 2018.
In a surprise announcement, GM said this spring the plant would benefit from part of a $700 million investment it would make in three Ohio plants, including Toledo and Parma sites, with 450 new jobs expected among all of them. DMAX, it said, would expand diesel engine production to support new heavy-duty pickup trucks that will go on sale later this fall.
While the company didn’t further elaborate on the breakdown, and wasn’t able to comment further, GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra noted that “the U.S. economy and our core business are strong,” driving increased demand.
Mike Davis, economic development director for the city, said the investment isn’t clear but likely to largely involve new equipment for its added mission.
“It’ll likely be an internal investment,” he said. “Increasing capacity in line with the new versions of their vehicles.”
There’s a great sense of pride in this factory among its workers – many of whom live in the nearby Moraine suburbs – to make engines is a prestigious gig. Amid the steady hum of machines whirring through the plant is a hive of workers meticulously fastening, installing, and adding to each block, helped here and there by robotic arms and carts.
DMAX is something of an experiment by the two automotive giants. There’s a dedicated space on the floor for Japanese engineers to visit, ever devoted to increasing engine efficiency.
The plant’s leadership has reflected this – last year, Tokyo-based Isuzu executive Takashi Sadaoka was named president of the company at the same time experienced local plant manager Pat Curtis, a General Motors veteran, rose to Chief Operations Officer.
GM’s relationship with the Dayton region has been complicated – not the least of which coming from the closure of its Moraine works a decade ago. But since these lines started humming in 2000, the plant has steadily grown in an incremental series of expansions that has brought the 584,000 square foot plant to one of the city’s most active manufacturing outfits.
Jim Stevenson, supporting Instructor of Industrial and Innovative Design at Cedarvile University, is plugged into the auto industry, and he said DMAX’s investment reflects its parent companies’ desire to attenuate to customer trends.
“The auto industry is in such a state of flux right now,” he said. “They’re planning for the future and autonomy, and the emphasis has gone inside the car versus the outside. But the quality of the car and efficiency has advanced light years and they’re being pushed by consumers to continue that trend.”