TOLEDO, Ohio - General Motors said today that it will invest about $2 billion to upgrade 17 plants across eight states over the next few years.
"These investments are key to our growth and key to our continued success," GM CEO Dan Akerson said.
He said GM is trying to keep it's production capabilities flexible to respond to market demands. Analysts have said GM has an opportunity to gain market share as Japanese rivals' production capacity is strained from parts shortages due to the Japan earthquake.
"We've allowed in all of our plans for additional capacity demands," Akerson said. "But we don't want to get in over or heads and ahead of the demand curve."
Akerson made the announcement at GM's transmission plant in Toledo, along with Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
GM said it will invest $204 million in that plant for production of a new eight-speed automatic transmission. The company didn't say what future vehicles would get the new transmission.
Toledo plant manager Joe Choate said a time frame for producing the new transmissions hasn't been determined. He said it wouldn't be before the end of the year.
GM said it would separately announce the other plant investments "over the next few months" as it works to finalize some state and local incentive packages. It didn't say which plants are in line to receive money.
The first investment -- $131 million for GM's Corvette plant in Bowling Green, Ky. -- was announced last week.
The company said the investments will create or preserve 4,000 jobs. It didn't say how many of those would be new positions.
GM already has invested $3.4 billion and has "added or saved" more than 9,000 jobs since emerging from it government-backed bankruptcy in 2009, the company said.
"The UAW's goal has been to return all laid-off workers to active status and see the company begin hiring again," Joe Ashton, vice president of the UAW's GM department, said in a statement. The planned investments will "bring General Motors back to full employment of our hourly work force."
GM does not build noncommercial vehicles with eight-speed transmissions, but the automaker unveiled a prototype for the eight-speed electric hybrid Buick Enclave last month at the Shanghai auto show.
The Toledo plant produces the Hydramatic 6L80 rear-wheel-drive six-speed transmission used in the Chevrolet Corvette and the Cadillac Escalade, and the global front-wheel-drive six-speed gearbox used in the Chevrolet Cruze and Malibu.
Akerson said the Detroit-Hamtramck plant that makes the Chevrolet Volt is currently retooling to change over to the 2012 model year. He said battery capacity will determine whether GM hits its initial production target of 10,000 Volts for the year.