GM to invest $36M at Lansing Delta plant to build crossovers

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News
General Motors Executive Vice President Global Manufacturing Alicia Boler Davis, center, and GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra, right, talk with employees Monday on a tour of GM Lansing Delta Township Assembly in Lansing. Barra announced  GM is investing $36 million at the plant for future crossover production.

Lansing — General Motors Co. plans to invest $36 million at its Lansing Delta Township Assembly plant to fund production of popular crossover vehicles. 

GM currently builds Chevrolet Traverses and Buick Enclaves at the plant. The announcement comes as the Detroit automaker plans to shut down production in early March at its facility in Lordstown, where it builds the Chevrolet Cruze. The automaker is pulling unprofitable products out of multiple plants this year ahead of the 2019 contract negotiations with the United Auto Workers.

The investment announced Monday is meant to fund a mid-cycle update to the Traverse and Enclave. The automaker, like its other U.S. competitors, is transitioning its vehicle lineup to include more crossovers and SUVs as U.S. consumers turn away from sedans. 

GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra has made multiple visits to U.S. plants since the start of the new year. Just more than a month ago, the automaker said it will spend $22 million at its plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee, to build new engines there. 

Barra said in Lansing on Monday that she meets with employees at the plants when she visits, and those employees often offer ideas to improve production at the facilities. Barra said that though no job increase is planned as part of the $36-million investment, the automaker is monitoring demand for the crossovers built at the Lansing facility and could add a shift in the future.

Lansing Delta currently runs two full shifts with overtime. 

"If we see an ability to add another shift that's sustainable, that's something that we would definitely consider," Barra said. "The best way that we can work on increasing jobs is to have a strong-selling product."

Buicks roll off the line at General Motors' Lansing Delta Township Assembly plant.

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United Auto Workers Vice President said Terry Dittes said in a statement the union encourages further upgrades at plants. "We in the UAW look forward to more investments like this from General Motors so they can build where they sell," he said.

Lansing Delta is GM’s newest plant in the U.S. The automaker said it has built 2 million crossovers at the facility since 2006. 

The plants GM plans to idle this year all build sedans or small cars. The automaker has job openings around the country for all but 100 of the 2,800 factory workers at the plants that will be idled, though those jobs aren't always nearby. Meantime, the automaker began in February laying off 4,250 salaried employees. 

Barra said Monday that those layoffs were "largely completed," and the company is moving forward now.

"It's about making sure people understood why we made the difficult decisions, and now moving forward," she said. "And that's what everybody's committed to do."

GM is continuing to "explore options" for its Lordstown plant, Barra said Monday, though the automaker is moving forward with plans to "unallocate" product from the facility on March 1.

Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau