1,200 to join 3rd shift at Lordstown by July
By DON SHILLING
VINDICATOR BUSINESS EDITOR
LORDSTOWN — General Motors will recall all its local laid-off workers in March and April as it prepares to create a third shift at its complex here.
Once the 330 laid-off workers are on board, the automaker will fill the rest of the jobs with about 800 workers who are out of work at other GM plants that have been closed or downsized, said John Donahoe, complex manager.
Nationwide, GM has about 6,000 hourly workers on layoff, and they will be given the opportunity to bid on the new Lordstown jobs.
The extra shift of 1,200 workers, which includes 70 salaried employees, should be in place by the end of June, Donahoe said.
At that time, the complex will shut down production of the Chevrolet Cobalt and turn its attention to the launch of the Chevrolet Cruze, GM’s new small car.
Mark Reuss, president of GM North America, received a standing ovation from workers Tuesday when he announced the creation of the shift in a ceremony on the floor of the assembly plant.
He said the Cruze would be launched at the end of the third quarter this year or beginning of the fourth quarter, which suggests roughly September or October.
The first Cruze to be made during the official launch will be bought by Frances Strickland, the wife of Gov. Ted Strickland, Reuss said.
He said adding workers before sales begin was not a risk for the company.
“We know this is going to be a hot car,” he added.
The Cruze is selling well in Europe and Asia and has been highly rated by industry reviewers, he said.
He stressed that GM expects the third shift to last, unlike what happened in 2008.
“We treat people and their lives very seriously. We’re really confident in this car,” he said.
In 2008, GM added a third shift because gas prices were soaring, which gave a boost to Cobalt sales. The car market collapsed shortly after, however, and Lordstown was trimmed to just one shift in early 2009.
Jim Graham, president of United Auto Workers Local 1112 in Lordstown, said he isn’t worried about the future of the third shift this time.
“Not a concern in the world. This car’s going to sell,” he said.
The assembly and fabricating plants in Lordstown now employ about 3,400 hourly workers on two shifts.
Reuss declined to provide a sales estimate for the Cruze in the U.S., but Donahoe said the complex will churn out 300,000 units a year on three shifts.
Cobalt sales fell to about 105,000 last year from 188,000 in 2008.
Reuss declined to comment on whether GM is considering placing the Chevrolet Orlando in Lordstown. The new crossover vehicle is based on the same underbody platform as the Cruze, but GM hasn’t announced a place for its production.
Donahoe said Lordstown will focus on the Cruze. He said “good things will happen” if the plant meets its quality and production targets.
Donahoe said Lordstown has made about 300 test models so far but will produce 1,000 before the launch.
Reuss drove from Detroit in a Cruze test model and said he was impressed with the quality of the interior as well as the ride and handling.
Engine calibrations are about 90 percent complete, with some work yet to be done on speeds up to 40 mph, he said.
He stopped at Greenwood Chevrolet in Austintown before going to the plant.
“The car was great today,” he said at the dealership.
He said the car will have more interior room and higher mileage than other cars in its segment, such as the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla.
“This car is absolutely segment-busting,” he said, adding the price for the car has not been set.
The Cruze will have a turbocharged, six-speed engine that will get 40 mpg on the highway with an automatic transmission, he said.
Reuss said he didn’t know what mileage he got from Detroit but said he traveled 220 miles in “well under” half a tank of gas.
The Cruze will have a range of more than 500 miles, he said.
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