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GM to add 750 jobs at Missouri plant

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

General Motors Co. said Tuesday it will add about 750 new jobs and a third shift early next year at its Wentzville Assembly Plant in Missouri to help meet demand for the new 2015 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon pickups.

The Detroit automaker said dealers have ordered about 30,000 Colorado pickups, which is seven times what it expected. Dealers also have ordered about 14,000 Canyons.

“We have had some great dealer early input,” said Brian Sweeney, head of Chevrolet sales and service in the U.S., in an interview.

Production has started on GM’s new midsize trucks, Sweeney said. Trucks will hit dealerships this fall.

About 2,600 workers at the Wentzville plant also build Chevrolet Express and GMC Savanna vans. Sales of both vans are up this year through August, with Express sales increasing 5.8 percent and Savana sales jumping 102.9 percent.

GM previously announced it would spend $513 million at Wentzville to prep the plant to build the new trucks and add a stamping press to its stamping plant there. GM said the about 750 new jobs are in addition to 1,315 new jobs GM committed to Wentzville as part of the launch of the new pickups and stamping press.

The automaker is returning to the midsize pickup segment after two years absent and in a segment that has contracted to about 227,000 sales last year. Many customers have switched to full-size pickups, crossovers and cars. The small-truck segment in the U.S. peaked in 1986 at about 1.4 million sales. Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC stopped building smaller trucks a few years ago and GM is touting its three truck size strategy to consumers including its full size and heavy duty trucks.

IHS Automotive expects midsize pickup sales will jump from about 244,000 sales this year to 300,000 by 2017, with the Colorado and Canyon selling a combined about 85,000 for the next few years. The segment currently consists of sales leader, the Toyota Tacoma, and the Nissan Frontier.

Sweeney said nearly 100,000 people have used the “build your own” site for Colorado at chevrolet.com.

“Whether that walks to an actual dealer order, (it’s) probably early to tell,” Sweeney said.

The Canyon also has an application that lets people configure a truck at gmc.com.

A base 2015 Colorado will start at $20,995 in an extended-cab model with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with a six-speed manual transmission. A base 2015 Canyon, marketed as a more premium truck, starts at $21,880. V-6 trucks also are available.

GM has invested more than $11.1 billion into U.S. facilities since mid-2009, creating or retaining about 27,000 jobs.

mburden@detroitnews.com

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