GM to reopen Tennessee assembly plant

GM to reopen Tennessee assembly plant
David Barkholz
Automotive News | September 17, 2011 – 10:41 am EST
UPDATED: 9/17/11 1:51 p.m. ET

DETROIT — General Motors has agreed to reopen its assembly plant in Spring Hill, Tenn., as part of its proposed settlement with the UAW.

The factory — originally built to produce Saturn small cars and idled as part of GM’s bankruptcy restructuring — will reopen with a mix of entry level and traditional workers, a source familiar with the matter said.

It had about 2,000 workers when it was shuttered in December 2009.

The source said the plant will build a new vehicle and serve as a secondary source of North Americana production for popular models.

The Detroit Free Press first reported that the plant would reopen under terms of a new labor pact between GM and the UAW.

GM has not responded to requests for comment. The automaker has continued engine assembly at the site since vehicle production was idled.

A group of mayors from communities surrounding the plant and Tennessee economic development leaders lobbied GM officials this week in Detroit to restart vehicle production at the site.

The factory is among GM’s most advanced manufacturing facilities in North America. It underwent a $700 million renovation in 2007 to improve efficiency and flexibility.

The plant turned out more than 3.7 million Saturn cars between 1990 and 2007. When it was idled, GM relocated output of the Chevrolet Traverse crossover to a plant in Delta Township near Lansing, Mich.

The automaker hasn’t publicly commented on any plans to reopen the factory, but management has indicated market conditions will dictate how fast it brings additional capacity online in North America.

U.S. light vehicle demand — hampered by the sluggish economy, high unemployment and lackluster consumer confidence — is expected to remain below 13 million units this year.

In the decade before the recent recession, U.S. auto sales averaged nearly 17 million vehicles annually.

GM’s U.S. sales are up 16 percent this year through August, compared to an 11-percent gain for the overall market.

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