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General Motors is “restoring” 2,400 car assembly jobs in the US by adding a third shift at three vehicle plants and also expects to return another 600 posts to engine, transmission, stamping and casting plants nationwide.

This “will result in increased manufacturing plant utilisation in the US,” GM said.

It will add a third shift at its Fairfax, Kansas; Fort Wayne, Indiana; and Lansing Delta Township, Michigan plants.

GM said in a statement the move was the result of consolidating product built at manufacturing facilities that were either retooling for new models, closing or being placed on “standby”.

Fairfax, which builds the recently redesigned Buick LaCrosse, Chevrolet Malibu and Saturn Aura, will become the exclusive Malibu source when the Orion, Michigan, plant stops output in November for retooling to make small cars in 2011. The new Fairfax shift starts next January.

Fort Wayne will add production of Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra heavy duty pickups moved from the Pontiac, Michigan, plant scheduled to close at the end of this month. The third shift begins in April.

Lansing Delta Township will add the Chevrolet Traverse currently built at the Spring Hill, Tennessee, plant. Once dedicated to Saturn, this relatively new plant will stop production in November but remain “on standby capacity”, GM said. The new third Lansing shift also begins next April.

GM recently said it would next month add a second shift at Lordstown, Ohio, to build the Chevy Cobalt and, soon, the Cruze ready for its launch next spring.

“Today’s actions enable GM to add production shifts and maximize the utilisation of several of our plants,” said GM manufacturing and labour chief Tim Lee.

“In turn, we are better positioned to deliver the vehicles our customers’ desire and put thousands of employees back to work that would have otherwise been laid off.”

GM would draw from its pool of laid off workers first to fill the 3,000 new positions and expects virtually all to be taken by workers now on layoff or who would be subject to layoff once other plants are idled, executives told Reuters.

The changes won’t however, add immediately to the automaker’s production schedule for 2009.

GM expects to increase North American production to about 2.8m vehicles in 2010, up about 40-45% from 2009.

GM has been dealing with severely low vehicle stocks resulting from a combination of the government funded ‘cash for clunkers’ programme that ran from late July into the first three weeks of August and production cutbacks due to its also government-funded Chapter 11 reorganisation.

Sales chief Mark LaNeve told the news agency sales by GM and rivals have been slow, a situation expected with the end of the ‘clunkers’ scheme.

“Our year-over-year [comparisons] will be difficult on both the fleet and retail side, but both accounts will get better beginning in October right through the fourth quarter,” LaNeve said.