GM might build Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain at Spring Hill plant
It is not clear how many people will be hired or brought off layoff from UAW Local 1853 this year in Spring Hill or what will be assembled there. But the Tennessean is reporting tonight that it likely will be the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain, which are assembled at the CAMI Automotive and Oshawa plants right now in southwest Ontario north of Detroit.
The plan likely will be to continue to produce the Equinox (pictured) and Terrain at the Ingersoll and Oshawa plants in Canada, with Spring Hill picking up overflow, to keep up with the big demand for them. This would bring GM cars and trucks to market faster. Before, only Saturns and Chevrolets came out of Spring Hill.
Going into production, Spring Hill has a measurable quality and speed standard to meet: CAMI assembles 945 finished Equinoxes per day, according to the local paper, the Ingersoll Times.
Questions about hiring and what the workers will do will be determined, officially, after the contract agreed to late Friday by General Motors and the UAW is ratified in the next week or two.
"It's very encouraging news, it's very positive news," Spring Hill Mayor Michael Dinwiddie told the local paper, the Daily Herald of Maury County, in an interview today. "I'm certainly very optimistic, and it's great news for this area. ... Hopefully this does come to fruition and once again change the history of the area -- start producing cars again, start lifting up the economy."
In an earlier interview, the mayor reinforced the point: “Everyone I’ve talked to is optimistic that something positive is going to happen with the plant. The tricky part is pinpointing a time when that is going to happen.”
Reversing course toward better days is happening because General Motors has righted its financial ship, generating $10.4 billion in profits so far this year and last. To keep the cash flow flowing, GM knows it must spur sales and to sell more cars and trucks there must be more places making them, and more overtime and people hired to assemble them.
Right now, the price is right. While veteran auto workers are paid handsomely at almost $60 an hour when marrying wages and benefits, a rookie auto worker makes around $14 an hour. Even with wage increases for new workers expected to take effect under the new UAW contract, it is still affordable for GM to hire people for its plants because profits are soaring.This evening, The Associated Press reported that pay increases of as much as $3 per hour will be awarded to new hires and entry-level auto workers under the new contract. GM and the union declined to confirm that.
To get things rolling, General Motors is expected to turn first to reopen Spring Hill as part of a promise to the UAW to reopen or build a plant a month every month for the next 18 months. Elected and union officials in Tennessee have been told they're getting the plant reopened in some form. Since the plant stopped making cars, about 1,100 auto workers have remained on the payroll making engines and another 500 workers will be hired soon by GM to handle that growing workload.
U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., predicted in 2009 that Spring Hill would be back to full employment someday.
"I’m saddened by the effect this will have on the many families who derive their incomes directly from the Spring Hill plant as well as the suppliers and vendors who depend on it," he told reporters after GM stopped assembling cars at the plant. “Tennessee is one of the best places in America to build cars, and Spring Hill is one of the most modern, adaptable plants in the country, so we remain hopeful that Spring Hill ... will move back into production if the economy improves."
Officials in Maury County, Tenn., lobbied GM hard to get their plant back. Spring Hill's Mayor Dinwiddie and several other officials, including two other local mayors, came to Detroit Sept. 15 to make their case and "to meet GM officials and emphasize the importance of the Spring Hill plant to Maury County," the local Daily Herald reported. The job and revenue losses have had an adverse effect on the county that they'd like reversed with GM investment dollars.
The Tennessee officials told Daily Herald reporter Richard Conn that Diana Tremblay, GM’s global manufacturing chief, assured them "the Spring Hill plant would be the first option" for a new GM plant, presuming demand warrants it. The Equinox-Terrain model fits that threshold.
The plant that was formerly the exclusive home for the assembly of Saturn automobiles closed in November 2009, when General Motors was hemorrhaging money hand over fist. GM chose to stave off imminent death with a painful restructuring. The restructuring was nurtured by President Obama and the federal government, which dangled a huge bailout loan as a carrot. The giant American carmaker stayed afloat by taking a $49.5 billion bailout loan from the government while at the same time deleting employees, plants, brands and dealerships.
Closing the home of Saturn was a hard choice for GM to make. At its peak, about 200,000 Saturn cars and trucks were made in Tennessee in a given model year, and they were made well. It sounds like a lot but in the scheme of things it is microscopic: General Motors manufactures about 13 million cars and trucks a year in America annually.