The coronavirus pandemic has stalled production at automotive facilities across the globe, including at all of the Detroit Three’s North American plants. However, it appears that workers at the Duramax engine plant in Moraine, Ohio are back online much sooner than anticipated. Banks Power has asked General Motors to reopen part of the facility in order to complete a batch of defense-specific engines for the U.S. military, per a press release from late last week.
Banks Power is one of the most prolific names in engine building, specifically for their work with turbochargers and high-performance diesel engines. The company was chosen by the U.S. government to upfit GM’s Duramax engine for military service in what can only be described as the most lucrative engine contract of the last century. The resulting 6.6-liter Banks Power D866T diesel engine is an essential piece of the United States’ military operations. The motor powers Oshkosh’s JLTV (Joint Light Tactical Vehicles), which replaced the famed Humvee as the armed forces’ main workhorse.
The Duramax plant and Banks Power employees alike recognized the importance of these powertrains and displayed unparalleled patriotism in supporting national security, according to Gale Banks, Chief Engineer at Banks Power. Employees returned to the Ohio facility on Monday, where they began to purge the assembly line of unfinished pickup truck engines from before the plant went dark. The employees were then tasked with filling an order of partially complete 6.6-liter D866T diesel engines. The order is to be shipped to Banks Power’s assembly plant in Azusa, California for final assembly and testing on Friday.
As Easter approaches, automakers in the United States are eager to reopen their production facilities. With stay-at-home orders being extended across the country as the projected death toll reaches 100,000-240,000 Americans per the Trump administration, the possibility of reopening seems less and less likely. While this group of employees were willing to risk their safety in the name of national security, it is possible other autoworkers won’t be so enthusiastic about coming back to work so soon.