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GM’s Orion plant loses future product to Kansas

Michael Martinez
The Detroit News

General Motors Co. has pulled a $245 million new vehicle investment for an unnamed product from its Orion Township plant and will instead build it in Kansas, the automaker confirmed.

“This is part of our ongoing product allocation process to build vehicles as cost-effectively as possible to benefit our customers and the business,” GM spokeswoman Dayna Hart said in a statement.

The Wall Street Journal first reported the news this week, while GM said it made the internal decision months ago. The automaker isn’t naming the product, but industry analysts have said it will be a small Cadillac crossover.

Stephanie Brinley, senior analyst for forecasting firm IHS Automotive, said her forecast is for the Cadillac XT3, a small crossover that will go into production in 2018. The forecast calls for GM to eventually make 25,000-30,000 per year.

About 950 hourly and 150 salaried employees operate on one shift at Orion Assembly to build the Chevrolet Sonic and Buick Verano. Later this year, the plant will start producing the Bolt EV, a Tesla-fighter that gets a 200-mile range and will cost about $30,000 after federal incentives.

The Orion plant was idled as part of GM’s 2009 bankruptcy and initially scheduled to close following GM’s restructuring, but reopened in 2010 after the union agreed to significant labor concessions that include requiring 40 percent of tier-two hourly workers to earn entry-level wages. Since its idling, GM invested $717 million in the plant, including a $160 million investment in 2014 for the Bolt.

GM’s Fairfax Assembly Plant in Kansas makes the Chevrolet Malibu sedan and employs about 3,230 hourly and 270 salaried employees.

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