Automotive

GM to hire 400 workers at Michigan electric vehicle plant

Company under fire for plans to close 4 US plants

(CNN) - General Motors, which has been under fire for plans to close four plants in the United States, said Friday it would add 400 jobs as part of its bigger push into electric and autonomous vehicles.

The jobs will be at GM's assembly plant in Orion Township, Michigan, where the company is building its all-electric Chevrolet Bolt, its answer to upstart electric car maker Tesla. The plant is also working on GM's self-driving vehicles that are now in development and yet to debut, as well as the Chevy Sonic.

GM said Friday the new workers at Orion will build an as yet unnamed, all-electric Chevy. But those jobs won't be added until next year at the earliest. GM also said it plans to add 300 other jobs nationwide, though it not prepared to say where or when they will be created. The company has 31 US factories, not counting the four in the process of being shut down.

In November 2018, GM announced big changes to reposition its business around vehicles consumers want, as well as future technologies like autonomous driving that are reshaping the industry. Its plans to close four US plants, made as part of that announcement, have drawn fire from the United Auto Workers union, President Donald Trump and other politicians.

The plant in Lordstown, Ohio, which shut after it produced its last Chevy Cruze earlier this month, was the first of the four facilities to close. Its Hamtramck plant in Detroit, the last one that GM operates in its hometown, is due to close late next year. Transmission operations in Baltimore and Warren Michigan will likely be shut down in the coming months.

The four plants accounted for a total of 2,800 workers at the time of the announcement in November. Another 600 had already been laid off or are on leave.

Hourly workers who lost their jobs are being offered transfers to open GM factory jobs in other places. GM said it has found positions for 1,100 of them, and has 1,600 other openings. Many are at the truck plant in Flint, Michigan. About 1,200 of the affected workers at the four plants are eligible to retire.

But GM is clearly feeling heat on the plant closing, most recently from Trump, who called GM chief executive Mary Barra about the Lordstown plant and brought up the closing in tweets and an appearance in Ohio this week.

GM has responded by saying that the future of the plant will depend on upcoming labor negotiations with the UAW.

The Orion plant closed when GM stopped selling the product it built — Pontiac cars, which were discontinued with the company's 2009 bankruptcy. The plant reopened in 2010, after GM and the UAW reached a deal specific to that plant.

GM has said it needs to close the four plants, as well as cut its salaried staff by 15%, to free up investment by cutting costs by $6 billion a year.

-- CNN's Cristina Alesci contributed to this report.


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