FLINT, Mich. — General Motors will invest more than $1.2 billion at several factories in a wide-ranging plan that will include production of what could be the industry’s first 10-speed automatic transmission.
“These investments are a sign of our confidence in our workforce and our UAW partners that have given and tried so hard and in our vehicles and the continued demand for excellence in each one of these products,” GM North America President Mark Reuss told dozens of cheering workers in Flint on Monday.
The investments were announced as outgoing GM CEO Dan Akerson spoke Monday afternoon at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., about the company’s progress under his three-year tenure. Akerson will hand the CEO reins to Mary Barra, the company’s senior vice president for product development, on Jan. 15.
The automaker said that it would invest $600 million at its Flint Assembly plant, $493 million at its Romulus (Mich.) Powertrain Operations facility and $121 million at its Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant.
Along with a $31 million capacity expansion at its Toledo (Ohio) Transmission Operations facility and a $29 million expansion of its Bedford, Ind. castings plant, the investments will “create or retain” about 1,000 jobs, GM said in a statement.
The company did not say how many positions are new jobs. It said it has created or retained more than 26,500 jobs in the U.S. since its Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009.
At the 3.7 million-square-foot Flint assembly plant – where about 2,800 employees make heavy-duty pickup trucks – the company will spend $600 million on facility upgrades, including a new paint shop.
“You earned this,” Reuss told UAW workers at the Flint plant, who broke into a standing ovation after hearing news of the new paint shop.
UAW Region 1C Director Norwood Jewell added: “This paint shop has been a long time coming, there’s no doubt about it.”
In Romulus, GM will establish a production line to build a new 10-speed automatic transmission. The company did not specify what vehicle would get the new transmission.
GM and Ford have been collaborating on development of nine- and 10-speed transmissions to improve the driving experience and boost fuel economy. Both companies have been playing catchup on transmissions with Chrysler Group.
GM also plans to expand the Romulus facility’s capacity to produce a six-cylinder engine.
At the Detroit-Hamtramck plant, where GM makes the Chevrolet Malibu, Impala and Volt, the company is launching a “logistics optimization center.”
Akerson said Monday’s announcement is a recognition that after 15 straight profitable quarters, the automaker can’t rest on its success.
“We are in a capital-intensive business that demands steady and significant investment,” Akerson said in prepared remarks for a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, a week after the U.S. Treasury had sold its last shares in “Government Motors” and almost five years to the day after its first infusion of cash to GM.
Akerson said the company had made it through a quick bankruptcy, but that it fell to him and his team to restore GM’s good name, transform operations and “put quality and the customer back at the center” of the company’s decision-making process.
In the remarks, Akerson said GM’s bloated and overly complex operations have been streamlined, debt reduced and products improved.
“We have been fixing the plane while it’s in the air,” he said. “The bottom line results of all of this work have been very encouraging.”