General Motors is beefing up its workforce as it prepares to build the new Chevy Bolt and another as-of-yet unnamed vehicle at its Orion Assembly plant. To that end, the automaker announced today it plans to hire 300 people and invest $245 million to launch what it calls “an all-new vehicle program unlike any in the plant’s 32-year history.”
“Orion Assembly is a breeding ground for manufacturing innovation,” said Cathy Clegg, GM North America vice president of Manufacturing and Labor Relations. “It serves as a model for how to engage the entire workforce at all levels to achieve success. The plant is up to the challenge of building this brand-new product, something it’s never seen before.”
The news follows GM’s announcement earlier this month that it would lay off 100 plant workers by the end of the year due to slow Chevrolet Sonic and Buick Verano Sales. GM reopened the previously idle plant in 2010, in effect raising it from the ashes following GM’s 2009 bankruptcy. Since then, the automaker’s invested $962 million in the plant.
The latest financial infusion comes just seven months after the announcement of a $160-million investment to launch Chevrolet’s Bolt EV, which is expected to get more than 200 miles of range on a single electric charge. The Bolt is scheduled to hit showrooms sometime in 2017, which means much of the new tooling and equipment needed would likely be installed next year. It will be priced at about $30,000 after a $7,500 federal tax credit.
GM touts its Orion Assembly plant is being unique, in that its culture encourages employees to offer solutions to problems. For example, a team of hourly, salaried and skilled trades’ workers from the paint shop recently developed a process monitoring tool for robotic paint applicators that alerts operators to potential failures before they happen. The innovative approach to preventive maintenance is now being applied to other GM manufacturing sites and will help avoid millions in cost annually.
“Orion is an example of what we can achieve when we work together,” said UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada, who leads the union’s GM Department. “Only through innovative problem solving were we going to see this plant succeed, and this new investment is proof of that. UAW-GM continue to show the world that when you involve both workers and management in the process, workers win, management wins and our communities win.”
As for the second unnamed new vehicle that will be built at Orion, Chevy says it doesn’t want to give that surprise away yet for competitive reasons.