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GM says it hasn’t ruled out Chinese imports

June 10, 2009

GM says it hasn’t ruled out Chinese imports


WASHINGTON — The head of General Motors North American operations today declined to say that no GM cars will be shipped into the U.S. from China while reiterating that the company intends to increase its percentage of vehicles made at home.

Troy Clarke, after leaving a meeting with Tennessee’s two U.S senators, said he did not think GM had agreed to any ban on Chinese imports even though it intends to make more than 70% of its cars and trucks in the U.S.

Clarke is in Washington today meeting with congressional delegations from Michigan, Wisconsin and Tennessee. Each has a plant already closed or set to be shuttered, one of which will be restarted to produce a new small car model for a restructured GM.

Michigan’s contender is the assembly facility at Orion Township.

The agreement to restart one assembly plant and one stamping plant for small car production came after the UAW complained loudly over GM’s initial plan to increase its overseas production of cars to be imported back into the U.S.

It had been believed by some that the new plan meant no GM cars would be imported from China. But Clarke declined to rule that out.

Meeting with the delegations, Clarke said the criteria for selecting between Orion; Spring Hill, Tenn., and Janesville, Wis. – the last of which is already closed – would be based on each plant’s "local competitive operating agreement," as well as manufacturing and supply costs and more.

"The decision," GM said in a statement, "will be made by GM and will be made solely on commercial grounds."

The statement was meant to blunt criticism that the White House auto task force has been calling too many shots and news that the company deayed the closing of one facility after a powerful congressman – Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, who chairs the House Financial Services panel – intervened on behalf of the plant in his district.

Sen. Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican who met with Clarke, declined to talk about what Spring Hill’s chances might be for the new facility – which is expected to have 1,200 workers. But he suggested the discussion was helpful.

"I think we understand what is going into the decision," he said.

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