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Mack to build Volvo engines

May 03, 2002|BY LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

Mack Truck's engine manufacturing plant in Hagerstown will begin building Volvo engines in addition to Mack engines in 2004, company officials said Thursday.

The decision will have no immediate effect on the plant's work force and it's too early to say what it will mean for the long-term employment outlook, said Denis J. Leblond, senior vice president for Mack's Powertrain Division.

Leblond told the plant's 1,200 employees Thursday that Volvo has decided to center its North American Powertrain Division in Hagerstown, which means all the engines for Volvo trucks sold in North America will be made here.

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It's a move the Hagerstown plant has been striving for ever since Volvo acquired Mack in January 2001, said Plant Manager Roger Johnston.

"Our employees have worked very hard to demonstrate the kind of commitment necessary. They recognize that for us this is a vote of confidence," Johnston said.

The plant will continue to manufacture its current line of Mack engines.

A new production line will be installed within the existing building to accommodate the yet-to-be-designed Volvo truck engines that will be made there, Leblond said.

Some of the engineering and design work will be done in Hagerstown as well, he said.

Both brands of engines will be sent to Volvo's New River Valley, Va., assembly plant. Mack's Macungie, Pa., assembly plant will continue to put together Mack Trucks, he said.

Production volume at the plant will increase as the new line is phased in from 2004 through 2007, but that doesn't necessarily mean more workers will be needed, he said.

Increased efficiency and productivity may offset the need to add employees, he said.

"It really depends on the size of the market," Leblond said.

Over the past year, the market for trucks has dropped in half.

"We're at the bottom of the cycle right now. There are signs the market might be picking up," Leblond said.

Last year, Mack reduced its work force by 82 people through layoffs and attrition. The Hagerstown plant manufactured about 30,000 engines, he said.

Maurice Kaiser, president of United Auto Workers Local 171, did not return a phone call seeking comment Thursday.

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