Tennessee’s Spring Hill plant won’t build GM’s new crossover South Korea picked for production of Buick Encore
Tennessee’s Spring Hill plant won’t build GM’s new crossover
South Korea picked for production of Buick Encore
5:13 AM, Jan. 10, 2012 |
Employees at General Motors’ Spring Hill plant work on the assembly line for the Chevy Traverse in November 2008. The facility didn’t completely close when production of the Traverse went away to Michigan a couple of years ago. / Shelley Mays / File / The Tennessean
G. Chambers Williams III
A new Buick crossover vehicle that United Auto Workers officials initially thought might be built at General Motors’ Spring Hill assembly plant won’t even be made in North America.
The vehicle will be made in South Korea instead, according to an announcement GM plans to make today.
Speculation still is running high as to what new vehicles Spring Hill will be assigned to produce over the next two years, even as activity is gearing up to begin limited production of the Chevrolet Equinox midsize crossover later this year.
And even though GM has begun hiring the planned 91 new salaried workers and managers for Equinox production, no hourly jobs have been posted yet.
There is no timetable for opening those expected 594 new assembly jobs to applicants at this point, said GM Spring Hill spokeswoman Lee Ann Williams-Maley.
Spring Hill to add ‘two new mid-size models’
What the promised additional vehicles — identified only as “two new mid-size” models — could be remains a mystery, even to United Auto Workers union officials here.
Those vehicles are expected to create an additional 1,110 jobs beginning sometime in 2013, but no exact timetable for hiring or startup of production has been revealed yet, said GM manufacturing spokeswoman Kim Carpenter in Detroit.
There was a flurry of talk beginning in mid-December that Spring Hill might be tapped to produce the new Buick model — a premium compact crossover called the Encore — that GM plans to introduce today at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show. GM began releasing “teaser” photos of sections of the Encore’s exterior, but kept any full views of the car under wraps.
Union officials said they have been told that Spring Hill never was considered as a production site for the Encore, a five-passenger vehicle.
Gary Casteel, director of UAW District 8, which includes Spring Hill, said Monday that the union is eagerly awaiting an announcement about new vehicles for the plant amid various rumors. GM has already said the redesigned Chevrolet Colorado midsize pickup will go to a production site in Wentzville, Mo.
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Still, the Spring Hill plant is on track to begin “overflow” production of the Equinox during the second half of this year, Casteel said. Primary production of that vehicle is in Ontario, Canada, but that plant has not been able to keep up with consumer demand.
Although the date for the Equinox to begin rolling off the Spring Hill line hasn’t been announced, GM has already hired some of the salaried workers who’ll be part of an initial launch team.
The plant also is hiring salaried workers and managers for the new Ecotec four-cylinder engine assembly line that is expected to ramp up this year. In September 2010, GM announced that it would invest nearly $500 million and hire almost 500 workers overall for an expansion of Spring Hill’s current Ecotec production line, along with a new assembly line for the next generation of the Ecotec four-cylinder.
Although GM shuttered the vehicle assembly line in November 2009 when production of the Chevrolet Traverse was moved to Michigan, engine production continued, along with some other vehicle components. Many of the workers laid off when Traverse production ended will return this year, either on the new engine or vehicle-assembly lines, GM has said.