Nexteer adding 325 jobs to build fuel-saving technology in Saginaw

“Nexteer, in five or ten years, will be bigger than it is today,” said Niklaus A. Von Matt, product engineering manager at auto supplier Nexteer. He made that prediction at the end of July, when he talked with about market opportunities for the company’s fuel-saving Electric Power Steering (EPS) system.

Actually, it didn’t take quite that long. Six months later, Nexteer is already getting bigger, with a $70 million investment in its Saginaw headquarters complex, adding 325 production and white collar jobs. According to a company announcement on December 15th, the added investment and jobs in Saginaw will supply EPS in a range of vehicles, from midsize cars to full-size trucks, for an as-yet-unnamed major auto manufacturer.

UAW 699 member Charles Cork discusses how Nexteer’s EPS technology is bringing investment and jobs to Saginaw, Michigan.

EPS, already commonly used in Europe, replaces a hydraulic system that uses continuous energy from the vehicle’s engine to drive power steering with an electric system that engages only when needed. By eliminating what engineers call “parasitic loss” from the engine, an EPS system can deliver a boost of up to six percent in fuel efficiency.

“Efficiency-boosting technology such as EPS will play a key role,” reports Ward’sAuto, in helping manufacturers meet new federal fuel economy standards, which require an overall fleet average equivalent to 35.5 mpg by 2016 and 54.5 mpg by 2025.

With a proven technology that meets customer demand and government requirements for fuel efficiency, officials at Nexteer are looking at additional opportunities. “We’re in the hunt for some other new business as well,” says Chief Operating Officer Mike Gannon, who gives credit to members of UAW Local 699, representing production workers in Saginaw, for their efforts to help the company win new work. “I’m very optimistic.”

The new jobs and investment announced this week come on top of a $150 million commitment in 2011, putting new technology and equipment in the Saginaw plant. As Charles Cork, a UAW 699 member who is a team leader in final assembly at the Nexteer plant told back in July: “It’s a commitment to Saginaw. It means we’re going to be here, and the money coming out of this plant is going to be spent in Saginaw, in the community, in the restaurants, in the housing market.”

Roger Kerson is a Michigan-based media consultant for labor unions and environmental organizations. He was formerly the director of public relations at the United Auto Workers.


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