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GM: 5K new salaried jobs, many in SE Mich.

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

General Motors Co. Tuesday committed to adding or retaining 7,000 U.S. jobs in the next few years, including more than 5,000 new salaried jobs, a significant portion of which will be in southeast Michigan.

The Detroit automaker made the announcement three days before the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, who on the campaign trail and since the election has criticized automakers for building vehicles in Mexico. He also has thanked them on Twitter for making U.S. investments and adding jobs here; on Tuesday, he thanked the Detroit automaker and Walmart “for starting the big jobs push back into the U.S.!”

GM said Tuesday it will invest $1 billion in U.S. plants and create or retain 1,500 manufacturing jobs. It also will in-source axle work to Michigan from a supplier that includes work now done in Mexico. It would not break out how many manufacturing jobs are new.

The carmaker said the salaried jobs will be added in growing areas including with its Fort Worth, Texas-based GM Financial subsidiary, which now has more than 6,300 workers and plans to hire about 1,300 people this year in the U.S., a spokeswoman said Tuesday. GM also plans to hire for positions in engineering and advanced technology, largely based in southeast Michigan.

GM will build axles for its next-generation full-size pickups at its Grand Rapids components plant in Wyoming, Michigan, a move that is tied to investment and jobs that the automaker announced more than 18 months ago, according to two sources familiar with the automaker’s plans.

The automaker on Tuesday said the move to operations in Michigan would create 450 U.S. jobs. A GM spokeswoman declined to name the supplier or where or when those jobs would come to the U.S. However, American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc. confirmed Tuesday that it was losing the work.

GM in June 2015 announced it would add about 300 new jobs and invest $119 million to produce vehicle components at its plant in Wyoming. That investment was part of $5.4 billion GM in April 2015 said it would spend in U.S. plants over three years, creating 650 jobs.

One of the sources, who asked not to be identified because GM has not announced its plans, said some of the jobs difference at the Grand Rapids plant is the addition of engineering-related salaried positions in southeast Michigan, including at GM’s Warren Tech Center and its Milford Proving Ground.

American Axle announced in July 2015 that it would retain an estimated 75 percent of sales content of the axle and driveshaft work for GM’s next-generation full-size pickup. The Detroit-based supplier has since updated that figure to retaining 65 percent of that work. It currently builds axles for GM’s full-size pickups at its Three Rivers, Michigan, plant and at its Guanajutato Manufacturing Complex in Mexico.

“GM’s announcement confirms our July 2015 announcement where AAM indicated that based on current design and program direction, we expect to retain a majority of the sales content provided to GM for the next generation full-size truck and SUV program,” Chris Son, an American Axle spokesman, said Tuesday. “AAM has covered approximately 90 percent of this expected sales impact of this sourcing transition with new and incremental business wins that will launch in the 2018 to 2020 time frame.”

GM has not said when it will begin building or selling its next-generation full-size pickups, but analysts expect to see light-duty versions in mid-to-late 2018, with heavy-duty versions coming in 2019.

The automaker said Tuesday it has created 25,000 jobs in the U.S. in the past four years, including about 19,000 engineering, information technology and professional jobs, and 6,000 manufacturing jobs. It announced plant investments totaling $2.9 billion in 2016 and more than $21 billion in U.S. operations since 2009.

The company said its new manufacturing investments will include multiple new vehicles, advanced technology and components. It said individual project details would be announced this year.

“As the U.S. manufacturing base increases its competitiveness, we are able to further increase our investment, resulting in more jobs for America and better results for our owners,” GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra said in a statement. “The U.S. is our home market and we are committed to growth that is good for our employees, dealers and suppliers, and supports our continued effort to drive shareholder value.”

GM’s announcement of new U.S. jobs and investment is part of its normal course of business and was not in response to Trump, GM spokeswoman Joanne Krell said Tuesday. But it also comes at an optimal time for GM to share what it is working on, she said.

Trump earlier this month called out GM on Twitter for building Chevrolet Cruze Hatchbacks in Mexico. In recent weeks, Ford Motor Co., Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, Toyota Motor Corp have made U.S. investment announcements. Hyundai Hyundai Motor Corp. and Kia Motors Corp. announced Tuesday that they plan to invest $3 billion in the U.S. in the next five years, and that the Korean automakers are considering building a new plant here.

“With all of the jobs I am bringing back into the U.S. (even before taking office), with all of the new auto plants coming back into our country and with the massive cost reductions I have negotiated on military purchases and more, I believe the people are seeing ‘big stuff,’” Trump tweeted Tuesday after GM’s announcement.

Michelle Krebs, a senior analyst for Autotrader, said in a statement: “General Motors’ announcement today is mostly theater to play in the news cycle created by President-elect Trump’s tweets. These investments and hiring plans have long been in the works and are a continuation of what the company has been doing in recent years — trying to run a successful, profitable business. The only thing ‘new’ here is GM’s aggressiveness in announcing its plans.”

GM also confirmed another supplier it did not name will make components for GM’s next-generation full-size trucks in Michigan, moving 100 supplier jobs to the U.S. from Mexico.

United Auto Workers Vice President Cindy Estrada said in a statement: “We are pleased that there will be over $1 billion in new investment for current and future UAW GM members. Through hard work and the quality products we build, UAW-GM members, their families and their communities will benefit.”

The carmaker in recent months announced it would cut shifts and layoff some 3,300 employees early this year at its Lansing Grand River Assembly Plant, Lordstown Assembly Plant and Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant amid slow car sales.

mburden@detroitnews.com

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