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Made In WNY: Inside GM's Tonawanda Engine Plant

Any radio series that purports to cover things made in Buffalo would be sorely lacking if it didn't include the area's largest manufacturer, employing almost 2,000 people and with a main plant the size of approx. 54 football fields.  General Motors'  Tonawanda Engine Plant produces one engine  every 49 seconds and has cranked out 71 million of them  since 1938.
HEAR MORE Friday morning on Buffalo's Early News (5a-9a)
SEE A PHOTO ALBUM at the Bottom of This Page  or Click Here for a larger version

From General Motors
The Tonawanda Engine Plant

Year Opened:

Plant #1 – 1938; Plant #4 – 1941; Plant #5 – 2001

Facility Size:

Approximately 3.1 million square feet of floor space – 190 acres

Employee Information







Union Local:

UAW Local 774


About Tonawanda Engine: Tonawanda Engine currently produces the Ecotec 2.0L Turbo (Wards Top 10 List Winner) and 2.5L (4-cyl.) engines for the Chevrolet Malibu and Impala, the Buick Regal and the Cadillac ATS and CTS. The plant recently launched an all-new family of engines – EcoTec3 4.3L V6, 5.3L V8 and 6.2L V8 engines, for the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra Pickup Trucks, and most recently announced Chevrolet Tahoe, Suburban, GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade SUVs. The plant is also the exclusive provider of the standard 6.2L LT1 V8 engine for the 2014 Corvette Stingray. The Corvette and the Silverado are the 2014 Car and Truck of the Year Award Winners.

GM Powertrain Tonawanda Engine Plant #1,  2995 River Road, Buffalo, New York 14207

GM Powertrain Tonawanda Engine Plant #5,  240 Vulcan Road, Buffalo, NY  14207

GM Powertrain Tonawanda Engine Plant #4, 2390 Kenmore Ave., Buffalo, NY 14207


General Motors has awarded Tonawanda Engine two new product lines in 2010

  • $425 million for the next Generation Ecotec 2.0:/2.5L
  • $400 million for a new V8 small block engine

Including the above 2010 announcements, GM has invested $2.3 billion into Tonawanda Engine over the past decade


  • Ecotec 2.0L Turbo/2.5L – 2014 Chevrolet Malibu & Impala, Buick Regal & Cadillac ATS & CTS
  • EcoTec3 4.3L V6, 5.3L V8 & 6.2L V8 – 2014 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra Pickup Trucks and 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe & Suburban, Cadillac Escalade and GMC Yukon SUVs
  • 6.2L LT1 V8 for the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray

2013 CY Production Total:

  • Engines produced in 2013 – 364,362
  • Total engines produced since 1938 – 71,331,611
The Tonawanda Plant has three main operations: Two highly robotic and one labor intensive.

Step One: Engine blocks made at a foundry in Saginaw Michigan are machined into the main frame of the engine:

WBEN photo/Dave Debo

In a second series of operations, lathe-like machines refine the  raw crankshafts from the foundry into a precision auto part- shaving 10 pounds of metal off the original piece.

Crankshaft before in foreground, after in back (WBEN photo/Dave Debo)

and the most labor intensive part of the operation installs the crankshaft into the engine block and adds everything from a head gasket to an oil pan, using a mix of manual labor and specialized, uniquely calibrated tools.

GM photo

WBEN photo/Dave Debo
 Each engine block in the facility has a Radio Frequency ID Bolt that captures the engine's real time journey through the plant, and stores the data for quality control and tracking later.

 It also helps the various robots in the plant to identify the product and do what's required-- cutting down on the set up and tear down time that would otherwise be required if the equipment had to be re-programmed each time the line starts to work on another engine size or type.

The Next Big Thing

Cutaway rendering of the all-new LT4 supercharged V8 engine for the 2015 Corvette Z06. Seen in the rendering is componentry that makes the new engine one of the most technologically advanced V8s in the industry including an advanced supercharger, direct fuel injection, Active Fuel Management (cylinder deactivation), continuously variable valve timing and a variable displacement oil pump.

The engine will be built by the Tonawanda Engine Plant beginning at the end of this  summer.     
GM photo

  A WBEN Photo Album

Click through our pictures at left

Hear a Tour of the Plant Friday morning on air on Buffalo's Early News.

Hear WBEN's Susan Rose, with Dave Debo and a recap of the plant tour

On Air Friday: Buffalo's Early News In-Depth

What is the role of manufacturing in WNY?  What changes and challenges has GM faced at Tonawanda and elsewhere?

HEAR Labor & Manufacturing Expert Art Wheaton of the Worker Institute at Cornell  with WBEN's  Susan Rose and Dave Debo.
A conversation in four parts
Part I  | Part II  | Part III  | Part IV

Filed Under :  
Locations : BuffaloImpalaMalibuNew York
People : Dave Debo
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