As GM touts investment plans, UAW slams cuts

June 03, 2019 12:00 AM 7 HOURS AGO
As GM touts investment plans, UAW slams cuts
$24 million to boost truck output at Indiana factory

GM CEO Mary Barra praised workers in Fort Wayne, Ind., for their pickups’ “exceptional” quality.
General Motors CEO Mary Barra last week continued her goodwill plant visits ahead of contract talks with the UAW by announcing a $24 million investment to increase full-size pickup production in Indiana.

Such a tactic isn’t uncommon for the automaker, but it has been met with mixed reactions amid GM’s plans to potentially close some U.S. plants — including Lordstown Assembly in Ohio — and lay off thousands of workers.

UAW Vice President Terry Dittes, who oversees the union’s GM department, has praised most of the investments but he didn’t publicly acknowledge a $700 million spending plan GM announced for three smaller Ohio plants this month and has been quick to criticize GM for its cuts.

Dittes responded to GM’s promise of the $24 million in upgrades in Fort Wayne, Ind., with a curt statement noting the increased job security it would provide and the record production levels the plant has been achieving.

While GM works to show its commitment to U.S. manufacturing, the union has repeatedly tried to shift attention to Lordstown’s closure and the automaker’s decision to build some prominent vehicles, including the Chevrolet Blazer, in Mexico.

When GM revealed the $700 million Ohio investments, Dittes released a statement that didn’t mention it or the 450 jobs GM said it would create, instead imploring the automaker to reopen Lords-town.

“In response to General Motors’ announcement today, the UAW’s position is unequivocal: General Motors should assign a product to the Lordstown facility and continue operating it,” Dittes said May 8.

Since January, Barra has visited bustling crossover and SUV plants in Michigan, Texas and Tennessee.

GM has announced about $2.6 billion in investments to create more than 2,500 U.S. jobs in 2019:
Flint, Mich.: 1,000 jobs
Delta Township, Mich.: $36 million
Romulus, Mich.: $20 million
Various: $1.8 billion and 700 jobs
Bowling Green, Ky.: 400+ jobs
Ohio (3 plants): $700 million and 450+ jobs
Ft. Wayne, Ind.: $24 million
Source: GM

During and in addition to those visits, the company has announced plans to invest about $2.6 billion and hire more than 2,500 workers at U.S. plants. In May, GM also reportedly met with Missouri Gov. Mike Parson to discuss incentives for a $1 billion investment at the automaker’s assembly plant in Wentzville.

The Indiana investment will include enhancements to conveyors and other tooling to support increased production, specifically of crew cab models. Work is expected to be completed this summer.

GM declined to say how much the improvements will increase production at the plant, which has received $1.2 billion in investments since 2015.

“The team here at Fort Wayne has done an outstanding job helping us satisfy customers throughout this launch,” Barra said in a press release. “Our product ramp-up was very smooth and the quality has been exceptional.”

GM started producing crew cab models of the next-generation, or T1, pickups in July in Fort Wayne, followed by double cab models in October. GM’s plant in Silao, Mexico, came on line to assemble regular cab and crew cab models at the beginning of the year. The pickups started arriving at dealerships in August.

Barra said sales of the crew cab models are “very strong,” but overall sales for both pickups are estimated to be down through the first four months of the year — largely because of the ramp-up and launch preparation of the heavy-duty models. The Automotive News Data Center estimates that U.S. sales through April of the Chevrolet Silverado were down 14 percent from a year earlier, while sales of the GMC Sierra increased 3.1 percent.

GM says combined sales of the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500 crew cab pickups were up 20 percent in the first quarter vs. a year ago. The company predicts another significant increase for the second quarter.

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