Kokomo, Indiana, is the seat of Howard County, located about an hour north of Indianapolis along U.S. 31 about halfway to South Bend. It’s been a landmark in the automotive world going back more than a century to when Elwood Haynes built his first internal-combustion carriage there in 1894, the first year that the first pneumatic tire produced in the United States was tested nearby. Haynes’ carriage eventually became the pioneering Haynes-Apperson automobile. Delco, as the General Motors electronic subsidiary was then known, had a major factory in Kokomo. More recently, Kokomo is home to a terrific eponymous speedway that sells a really good grilled pork chop sandwich while also serving up non-wing 410 Sprint cars. The city has long been a Chrysler stronghold. Today, its parent company, Stellantis, operates three major powertrain plants in Kokomo that employ more than 7,000 workers.
That pentastar presence – sorry, couldn’t resist – got a significant boost last week when Stellantis announced a $229 investment in all three of its existing Kokomo plants, where a fourth-generation version of its eight-speed automatic transmission will be produced for Dodge- and Ram-badged Stellantis vehicles with mild or plug-in hybrid powertrains. The electrified eight-speed will be directly adaptable to existing Stellantis internal-combustion engines as part of the firm’s goal to have low-emissions vehicles account for 40 percent of its U.S. sales by 2030. The guy on the left of the Stellantis photo is Eric J. Holcomb, the governor of Indiana, who joined with Stellantis powertrain chief Brad Clark is autographing another Kokomo automotive benchmark, the 5 millionth eight-speed automatic, which the Kokomo Transmission Plant assembled last week.