GM slates 'all-new vehicle program' for Orion

GM said the new-vehicle program would be "unlike any in the (Orion) plant's 32-year history."
UPDATED: 6/22/15 11:12 am ET - adds link

DETROIT -- General Motors said it is investing $245 million in a suburban Detroit assembly plant and adding 300 jobs for an "all-new vehicle program."

GM, in a statement today, wouldn't disclose the vehicle it plans to produce at its Orion Assembly plant, where the Chevrolet Sonic and Buick Verano small cars are built. GM also is adding the Chevy Bolt electric vehicle to the plant when it gets launched, likely in 2017.

The automaker said the new-vehicle program would be "unlike any in the plant's 32-year history." A spokesman said production would begin "in the next three to four years."

The news comes a week after Orion workers were told that GM will cut production at the plant by more than 20 percent and lay off 100 workers amid slow Sonic and Verano sales, sources told Automotive News. GM has curbed output several times in recent months at the 4.3-million-square-foot factory, where about 1,580 hourly and 180 salaried employees work.

The investment will boost GM's total spending on the Orion to $962 million since it reopened the previously idled plant in 2010.

“Orion Assembly is a breeding ground for manufacturing innovation,” Cathy Clegg, GM's vice president of labor relations and North American manufacturing, said in a statement. “It serves as a model for how to engage the entire workforce at all levels to achieve success.”

GM said the plant has a "unique culture" that encourages problem-solving among employees. For example, a team of paint-shop workers developed a monitoring tool to predict potential failures in robotic paint applicators, which GM said cuts costs and now is being implemented at other plants.

GM's announcement is the latest in a string of factory investments that GM is disclosing in advance of its upcoming negotiations with the UAW on a new, four-year collective bargaining agreement.

GM has said it will spend $5.4 billion on its U.S. manufacturing plants over the next three years. It has identified $3.1 billion of that total so far and says it will disclose the rest by year end.

You can reach Mike Colias at mcolias@autonews.com

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