DETROIT -- The cornerstone of FEV North America Inc.'s expanded suburban Detroit campus will be a vehicle emissions test center -- adding to its existing prototyping, design and development facilities.
The new tech center at FEV, the U.S. unit of German engineering and testing firm FEV Group, will have a chassis dynamometer, where engineers can drive vehicles in simulated conditions. Capabilities of the test center are rare among r&d companies in Michigan, according to Patrick Hupperich, CEO of FEV North America.
"This a unique facility, and one that outside of the OEMs, is very difficult to find," he said. FEV officials detailed plans for the new facility Monday at its groundbreaking.
Hupperich said that adding more test cells at the site could enable Detroit's automakers to conduct testing locally instead of relying on suppliers in other cities and states.
"Having our own facility eliminates a bottleneck for automakers," Hupperich said.
The 25,600-square-foot plant is being built on eight acres in Auburn Hills, Mich., near several other Tier 1 powertrain suppliers and the North American headquarters of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. The expanded testing facility is expected to be complete by the second quarter of 2018.
Hupperich would not disclose contracts with specific automakers, but said FEV works with various global suppliers and commercial and passenger vehicle manufacturers.
"The reason that we're in this area is obviously due to the proximity to the Big 3," Hupperich said. "That helps with communication as well as integrating our engineers into their teams and their engineers into our teams."
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who spoke at the new site, said the investment is a win for Michigan and noted his commitment to "create a pipeline of the most talented people" for FEV and other automotive businesses.
The $27 million project, which is expected to create 246 jobs, was approved last June for a $1.2 million grant from the state of Michigan, dependent on creating the anticipated jobs.
FEV officials said plans are in the works for a second phase involving more laboratories and offices.
The company had considered South Carolina as an option for the location of the new testing center, but ultimately decided on Michigan.
To help automakers meet stricter fuel-economy rules, FEV has increased its transmission testing capabilities.
The FEV Group, along with competitors, such as AVL, Ricardo Inc. and MAHLE GmbH, works with automakers to design, develop and test powertrain technologies that reduce emissions, boost performance and improve fuel economy.