DETROIT - Introducing General Motors' plans for a new Cadillac plant in Lansing, Mich., last Thursday, Jan. 27, GM executive Don Hackworth made two things clear:
1. The $560 million greenfield plant is not a resurrection of GM's Yellowstone Project, which the UAW opposes.
2. It is not based on GM's Blue Macaw plant in Brazil. It is a lean-production model based on concepts developed at GM plants in Germany, Poland, Argentina, China, Brazil and Thailand. The result is a plant 40 percent smaller and one-third as expensive as comparable U.S. plants.
Lansing will begin producing Cadillacs in the fourth quarter of 2001 with eventual annual capacity of 150,000. It will employ at least 1,500 hourly workers in 2004.
The plant will build the new Catera and Seville on GM's Sigma rear-wheel-drive platform, and a new Cadillac sport-utility with all-wheel drive.
Yellowstone and Blue Macaw cut costs by outsourcing assembly plant work to suppliers that deliver assembled modules. UAW opposition forced GM to scrap Yellowstone in 1999.
'Yellowstone (is) dead here in North America,' said Hackworth, senior vice president of the GM North American Car Group. 'It has absolutely nothing to do with this (Lansing) project.'
Blue Macaw, which is building a stripped-down Corsa in Brazil, is doing well, Hackworth said. 'But we're not going to do the Blue Macaw here in the U.S.'
'There are some things that are different,' said Mike Green, vice chairman of UAW Local 652, which will represent the Lansing plant. It is not a modular assembly plant, he said.
The 1.9-million-square-foot Lansing factory will be divided into three buildings connected by conveyors: a body shop, a paint shop and an assembly plant shaped like a narrow cross.
The shape of the assembly plant puts workers close to shipping doors, allowing delivery of parts on a just-in-time basis.
To show the difference in productivity, GM last week showed reporters a model of its Oklahoma City plant, where it builds the Chevrolet Malibu. The 3.2-million-square-foot plant has an annual capacity of 233,000 cars. Then they showed the plant as it would look on the lean-production model: 1.1 million square feet, with capacity of 215,000.
The likelihood of GM building other new plants in North America is slim, however.
The Lansing plant will be GM's first greenfield plant in North America since it opened its Saturn plant in Spring Hill, Tenn., in 1989. Hackworth said it probably won't be the last but said most future projects will be 'brownfields,' involving renovation of existing plants.
He said: 'Most (lean production) work needs to be adaptable for the brownfields.'