By Chrissie Thompson and Aaron Kessler
Detriot Free Press
General Motors plans to kick off a hiring blitz today that will add or preserve about 4,200 jobs in eight states, including up to 2,000 in metro Detroit, people familiar with the planning said.
GM CEO Dan Akerson is to speak today at GM's Toledo transmission plant, heralding updates at 17 plants that will total more than $2 billion. He's likely to save the list of the plants for later, but Toledo will add between 250 and 400 jobs.
Spokeswoman Kim Carpenter declined to comment.
New jobs at GM first go to a pool of laid-off workers that currently numbers about 2,000.
In Detroit, GM plans to add a bulk of the new jobs at its Chevrolet Volt factory, which straddles a border with Hamtramck. Interest in the Volt extended-range electric car and the arrival of $4-a-gallon gasoline have prompted GM to move up the planned hire date for new workers at the plant, likely to late summer. GM had planned to double the number of workers, which currently numbers about 1,000. Now, it may add as many as 2,000.
GM also plans to expand its work force at the Warren Tech Center and a variety of U.S.powertrain plants. The new hires will include a couple hundred white-collar workers. GM will add many of the jobs in 2012, with some hiring to start this year.
GM executives have said more fuel-efficient small cars have it better prepared for high gasoline prices than in 2008.
GM to extend bet on electric vehicles
As part of its upcoming wave of new hires, General Motors plans to deepen its bet on its extended-range electric technology.
When he speaks in Toledo today, GM CEO Dan Akerson may not list all the 17 plants getting the thousands of jobs as a result of GM's $2-billion-plus investment, people familiar with the plans said. Instead, Akerson intends to visit other factories in the coming weeks.
GM's Detroit-Hamtramck factory, which builds the Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric, had planned to add workers late this year, as the Free Press reported earlier. With gasoline prices rising, GM plans to move up the workers' hire date and possibly triple the plant's current work force, which now stands at about 1,000.
The new Detroit-Hamtramck workers will also help build the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu when it debuts next year.
After more than a decade of whittling down its global work force from about 600,000 to about 200,000, post-bankruptcy GM has started adding jobs. In the U.S., the automaker has promised to add or retain 8,882 manufacturing jobs since exiting bankruptcy in July. The new jobs have come with profitability: GM posted its fifth-straight quarterly net income last week.
GM is seeking to build more than 25,000 Volts this year, up from the original target of about 10,000, Akerson has said. As engineers work to create a less-expensive Volt that will bring in profits, executives have debated a decision to produce 120,000 Volts annually starting next year, well above the current estimate of 45,000.
Akerson has said he wants GM to bet on the Volt's technology more than any other electrification solution.
Pre-bankruptcy GM might have spent equal amounts on Voltec, hybrid, plug-in hybrid and pure-electric vehicles, but not new GM, Akerson said in a January interview. "Would you bet on every hand in poker?" he asked. "We're taking an assessed business risk."
The hiring blitz also includes the Warren Tech Center and powertrain factories in Spring Hill, Tenn., and Tonawanda, N.Y.
In Toledo, where Akerson is to speak today at a transmission plant, GM plans to invest about $250 million and add at least 250 jobs, possibly as many as 400, depending on sales levels.
New jobs at GM first go to a pool of laid-off workers, which currently numbers about 2,000. But officials have said that GM will have accepted all those workers by the end of this year.
That means many of these 4,200 jobs will go to new hires. According to GM's contract with the UAW, those workers will make $14 an hour, about half of what first-tier line workers are paid.
In addition to the new jobs at Detroit-Hamtramck, GM and DTE Energy plan to introduce a project Wednesday that will use solar panels to supply some of the Volt plant's electricity needs.
The Free Press had reported earlier the plans to install solar panels at the Detroit-Hamtramck factory.