Tenn., Wis. ask GM to reopen factories

 

ted: Feb. 25, 2010

Tenn., Wis. ask GM to
reopen factories

BY TIM HIGGINS
FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER

Tennessee and Wisconsin officials have
approached General Motors about incentives to
reopen assembly plants, according to a company
official.

As part of a possible plan to increase its
production capacity, GM executives have
discussed ramping up work at plants that have
not been identified.

GM has stopped work at factories in Spring Hill,
Tenn., and Janesville, Wis. But unlike other
unwanted facilities, it did not jettison the
facilities in bankruptcy.

The automaker lacks sufficient capacity at its
Canadian factory to make enough Chevrolet
Equinox and GMC Terrain crossovers to meet
demand. GM North America President Mark
Reuss also has hinted that the automaker could
be looking for a place to increase capacity for
future vehicles that GM anticipates "are going to
be really hot."

After recent comments by Reuss about wanting
to discuss the possibility of government
incentives, officials in Tennessee and Wisconsin
reached out to GM, Diana Tremblay, GM’s top
manufacturing executive, told the Free Press in
an interview.

"They have come forward to us to tell us that
they want to meet with us," Tremblay told the
Free Press during an interview at GM’s
Lordstown, Ohio, assembly plant.

"They are definitely interested in getting their
foot in the door," she said.

 
She said that if the U.S. market returns to
previous levels, the company won’t have enough
production capacity. "I don’t think we’re quite
there yet. … But hey, maybe we will be," she
said.

On Wednesday, officials from Tennessee and
Wisconsin wouldn’t comment.

In Orlando earlier this month, Reuss said GM is
looking at options to increase production of
vehicles and that could include ramping up
activity at plants that have not been identified.

"I’m not ready to say which plants because we’re
still looking at which ones and how to do it and
that would be a conversation that would not just
be internal to GM but also (with) some of the
states where those plants are," Reuss said.

"What we want to do is something that may not
be traditional in terms of how we do it and how
we staff it and how we bring it on and off."

While GM executives have been guarded with
their plans, the Free Press reported earlier this
month that one option under discussion has
included the possibility of opening a manual
body shop, perhaps in the Spring Hill plant, to
assemble vehicles. Such a cost-saving move

 
 
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could help add production quickly with less
expense than adding new automated tooling.

The reopening of either plant would cap a roller-
coaster period. Both plants along with an
assembly plant in Orion Township were spared
total elimination under GM’s bankruptcy
reorganization. The UAW negotiated to keep the
three plants and for one to be reopened to build
small cars.

Following that announcement last June,
Michigan, Tennessee and Wisconsin competed
fiercely to win the small car business. At one
point, Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen complained
to the news media that it would take more than
$200 million for the Spring Hill plant to stay in
the game but that his state didn’t have the
money.

Michigan eventually won, with state and local
leaders pledging $1 billion in incentives to keep
the Orion Township plant and its 1,200 jobs.

Contact TIM HIGGINS: 313-222-8784 or  
thiggins@freepress.com

 

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