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General Motors to Upgrade Michigan Facilities

April 8, 2014

General Motors Co. plans to upgrade its Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant and Brownstown Township battery assembly facility, according to The Detroit News. Sources privy to the automaker’s plans noted that GM will be investing $450 million for the project and will be adding 1,400 more jobs.

GM is said to add a second shift at the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant and upgrade the facility in order to manufacture a redesigned Chevrolet Volt. Sources said that the second shift will be added next year and that the company’s hefty investment is mostly for battery technologies.

The automaker is expected to make the announcement regarding the investment during today’s Automotive Press Association luncheon in Detroit. Gerald Johnson, GM’s North America Manufacturing Vice President, is said to be the one to make the announcement.

It was also reported that the luncheon will be attended by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Gov. Rick Snyder, both of whom received invitation which indicated that the auto giant will be discussing “ongoing investment to maintain its technology leadership.”

While GM spokeswoman Katie McBride did say that the company was planning to hold a press association event, she did not confirm the investment.

Meanwhile, Duggan’s office did confirm that the mayor will attend the luncheon but refused to offer other information. Snyder’s office also confirmed that the governor was invited to the luncheon and that he will see if his schedule will allow him to attend.

The Detroit-Hamtramck facility is the only one assembling the plug-in hybrid Volt, as well as its two counterparts sold overseas: Opel Ampera in Europe and the Holden Volt in Australia. The facility also builds other GM models, such as the Cadillac plug-in hybrid ELR, and the Chevrolet Malibu and Impala sedans.

The plant employs about 1,600 workers on a single shift. The addition of a second shift has been discussed for years.

While the addition of workers in the Detroit-Hamtramck plant is likely, it is uncertain if GM will also add jobs in its battery assembly plant in Brownstown Township, Michigan, located about 30 miles south of the aforementioned facility. The battery assembly facility, which is operated by GM subsidiary GM Subsystems Manufacturing LLC, currently employs 100 workers and makes the lithium-ion battery packs for the Volt, Ampera and ELR.

Interestingly, the news about GM’s upgrade comes at a time when the Chevrolet Volt is suffering from lackluster sales. Former Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson hoped to sell 60,000 Volt units a year. Unfortunately, reported figures are far from the desired target. In 2013, sales dropped 2 percent to 23,094 units. Sales for the first quarter of this year also dropped 15 percent over the previous year with 3,606 units.

The Volt was one of the two plug-in hybrid pioneer vehicles in 2010 (the other was the Nissan Leaf) but it has failed to keep the public’s attention after it was launched. Now, there are many other electric vehicle options in the market and GM must upgrade the vehicle in order for it to stand out in the competition. Analysts say that GM must improve the car’s electric range and styling as well as lower its price in order to attract buyers.

Photo credit: © General Motors CC BY-NC

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