Delco Rochester Products Division

Delco Rochester Products Division manufactured carburetors, fuel injectors, valves, tubing, locks, keys and various other parts for General Motors automobile brands.

Delco Electronics Corporation was the automotive electronics design and manufacturing subsidiary of General Motors based in Kokomo, Indiana, that manufactured Delco radios and other electric products found in GM cars.  The name “Delco” came from the ”Dayton Engineering Laboratories Co.,” founded in Dayton, Ohio, by Charles Kettering and Edward A. Deeds in 1909.  Kettering became vice president of General Motors Research Corporation in 1920.  He held the position as head of research for GM for 27 years.  Delco was responsible for several innovations in automobile electric systems, including the first reliable battery ignition system and the first practical automobile self-starter.

In 1938, General Motors constructed a facility on Lexington Avenue in Rochester, New York, and in 1939, this facility became headquarters for the new Delco Rochester Products Division. Over the next fifty years, Delco Rochester Products Division manufactured parts for various General Motors automobile models.

In 1936, Delco began producing the first dashboard-installed car radios. By the early 1970s, Delco had become a major supplier of automotive electronics equipment. Based in Kokomo, Indiana, Delco Electronics employed more than 30,000 at its peak.  In early 1956, Delco produced a transistorized hybrid signal-seeking car radio, which used both vacuum tubes and transistors in its radio’s circuitry. Transistors were used to replace the radio’s audio output vacuum tubes and also the vibrator.

In 1988, General Motors merged Delco Rochester Products Division with the AC Spark Plug Division to form the AC Rochester Division; it continues to operate as part of the ACDelco Division of General Motors.  Although Delco Electronics no longer exists as an operating company, GM still retains rights to the Delco name and uses it for some of its subsidiaries including the ACDelco parts division.

After a series of mergers and name changes, Delco Rochester Products Division became known as Delphi Powertrain. GM’s Delco Electronics Corporation was transferred to Delphi in late 1997 as part of a transaction in which GM spun off its defense electronics business, Hughes Electronics Corporation, which had operated Delco for the previous 11 years. In 1999, Delphi became an independent corporation with no formal relationship to General Motors.

In 2005, Delphi Corporation filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and in 2009, General Motors reacquired the Lexington Avenue facility. This plant now operates as part of GM Component Holdings, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of General Motors. Currently, the 1.78 million square foot facility has 1,008 employees, many of which are members of the UAW Local #1097.

Asbestos was incorporated into dozens of materials used in the maintenance and upkeep of the Delco Rochester Products Division facility. Gaskets, pipe covering, block insulation, insulating cement, transite board and refractory mortar contained asbestos. Workers who handled these materials, or worked in the vicinity of those who did, are at risk for developing an asbestos-related disease, such as mesothelioma.

Transite Vent Pipe

Delco Rochester Products Division utilized die-cast furnaces that melted zinc alloys that were used in various engine parts. These furnaces were rebuilt on a regular basis because the high temperatures produced in the furnaces deteriorated the refractory mortar. Workers applied asbestos-containing refractory mortar onto the firebricks that lined the furnaces. Refractory mortar was packaged as a dry powder, and it was mixed with water to form a paste. Pouring and mixing the dry mortar released asbestos fibers into the air. Additionally, asbestos-containing transite board insulated the steel exterior of the furnace. Transite was cut to the proper dimensions in order to fit into the furnaces. Sawing and cutting transite board also emitted asbestos fibers into the air.

Asbestos-containing pipe covering was applied to water and steam pipes throughout the Delco Rochester Products Division facility. Boilers used to heat the building and produce steam for manufacturing processes were covered in asbestos block insulation. Handling or cutting lengths of pipe covering or block insulation emitted asbestos-containing dust and fibers into the air. Insulating cement was also used to cover pipe elbows and valves. Asbestos-containing cement was manufactured as a dry powder, and it was mixed with water to form a paste. Pouring and mixing the insulating cement caused asbestos-containing dust and fibers to become airborne.

Asbestos-containing gaskets were used in steam pipes, pumps and other equipment. Workers at Delco Rochester Products Division fabricated gaskets from sheets of asbestos-containing gasket material. Cutting gasket material emitted asbestos dust into the air. Scraping and removing gaskets also released asbestos dust and fibers into the air.

Lipsitz, Ponterio & Comerford, LLC represents former workers and retirees from Delco Rochester Products Division. In the process of representing these workers and their families, we have gathered a vast amount of information concerning the types of asbestos-containing materials to which our clients were exposed. If you or a loved one were once employed at Delco Rochester Products Division and have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, lung cancer or another asbestos-related disease, we urge you to contact us regarding your legal rights.