Good News for Detroit: American Axle Plans New $20M Tech Center

More good news for Michigan’s auto industry came this week when, at the annual Center for Automotive Research conference, auto supplier American Axle announced it would spend approximately $20 million to open a new technology development center in Detroit.

“We’re pleased to be growing here in Detroit again,” says Chris Son, American Axle’s director of investor relations, corporate communications, and marketing. “We closed on the sale of the site to Industrial Realty Group earlier this year and we retained the ability to access a building that remains on the site.”

Son is referring to the sale of its 2.5 million-square-foot former manufacturing center at I-75 and Holbrook to the California-based real estate developers in February. As fans of the documentary “Detropia” may recall, American Axle shuttered the site two years ago after contentious negotiations with the UAW fell apart.

“In 2012, we had to make some difficult decisions to be more competitive,” Son says. “We’re definitely committed to long-term health in manufacturing and we plan to continue our efforts to be one of the market leaders.”

American Axle plans to create up to 100 manufacturing and engineering jobs at the tech center. Son says the center will focus on technology benchmarking, prototype development, and worker training, and will also feature a supplier collaboration area.

“We’ll be developing advanced technology for not only our products, but for the manufacturing process itself to create a more efficient operation,” Son says. “We’ll look at market trends in the industry, like fuel efficiency, lightweight components, and noise reduction, and we’ll develop new products to meet those market trends.”

One product American Axle recently developed, the EcoTrac disconnecting all-wheel drive system, reduces emissions and increases fuel efficiency, Son says. Chrysler liked the product so much that it began installing it in its Jeep Cherokee models this year.

American Axle, which was founded in 1994, has more than 2,000 employees in Michigan spread across several facilities. Son says the company plans to open the Detroit technology center by the end of 2015.

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