General Motors will invest approximately US$20m by early 2006 at its Shreveport, Louisiana truck assembly plant to increase production of the Hummer H3 SUV and the Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon midsize pickups.

To prepare for the increased output, the Shreveport plant will add a third production shift to its paint department during the first quarter of 2006.

GM is spending the money because sales of the trucks and SUVs the Shreveport plant makes have risen.

Although GM's overall sales in the US plummeted 26% in October, the company delivered 121% more H3s - 4,500 - to customers during the month. Colorado sales rose 17.6% year-on-year in January-October, while GMC Canyon sales increased 42.6%.

Total recent investments in Shreveport now total over $1 billion.

Shreveport Assembly has built trucks since 1981, beginning with the Chevy S-10, and currently employs about 3,200.

Separately, Dow Jones reported that GM's announcement came a day after it said it was accelerating its plan to add a third shift to its Wilmington, Delaware, operation, where the newly launched Pontiac Solstice roadster is made.

GM spokesman Jim Hopson told the news agency the company was forced to pull ahead its plans to increase production at the plant because of demand for the new vehicle and the fact that GM will add a similar vehicle for the Saturn brand to the assembly line in 2006.

Hopson reportedly said Pontiac dealers have received more than 15,000 orders for the Solstice since it launched the car earlier this year.

The company had only delivered about 1,500 Solstices by the end of October and will soon have to start taking orders for 2007 model year editions, Hopson told Dow Jones.

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