As Demand Ramps Up, GM Considers Reopening Closed Plants

Strong demand for some General Motors models is causing the Detroit auto maker to consider reopening some plants it closed in recent months as GM downsized its business. Plants that build the Chevrolet Equinox, GMC Terrain and Cadillac SRX crossover vehicles and the Buick LaCrosse sedan are at capacity and can't meet demand, said Mark Reuss, GM's North America president (pictured), speaking to reporters at the Detroit auto show that got underway Monday.Reuss mentioned the company's Spring Hill, Tenn., plant, once home to its now discontinued Saturn division, but didn't go so far as to say whether it (or another idled plant) would indeed be reopened, The Associate Press reported. In the near term, Reuss said the company will try to increase output at existing plants that produce the popular models.

The vehicles are manufactured at three plants in North America: Ingersoll, Ontario, Kansas City, Kan., and Ramos Arizpe, Mexico. GM closed 14 factories last year as part of its restructuring in bankruptcy. The Spring Hill plant, along with the company's Janesville, Wis., facility were idled, in case their capacity was needed.

Increased demand for the vehicles is good news for GM, which struggled, along with other auto makers, last year to sell its cars. GM reported earlier this month that sales last year tumbled 30% compared to 2008. That number might have been worse if not for last summer's popular "cash-for-clunkers" program, which is credited for boosting sales at a time when consumers weren't keen on buying. GM also saw a resurgence in interest in the final week of 2009 as consumers sought to cash in on bargain prices on the company's orphaned Pontiac and Saturn brands.

More Good News

Reuss' announcement wasn't the only bit of good news for beleaguered American auto workers. Chrysler chief executive Sergio Marchionne said his company will have to start hiring production workers should the Auburn Hills, Mich.-based company begin to hit its sales projections.

Marchionne, however, didn't provide a time frame for hiring. Company plans to revamp Chrysler's model line will necessitate hiring those involved in engineering and development, possibly beginning with temporary workers, AP reported.

"We just don't have the manpower," said Marchionne, who is also CEO of Italy's Fiat. Chrysler's previous owner, Cerberus Capital Management, thinned the auto maker's white collar ranks in an effort to cut costs.

Earlier this month, Chrysler reported 2009 sales were down 36% overall in 2009, but saw December sales drop by just 3.7%, a far better showing than previous months' double-digit sales falloffs. Still, industry observers said half of those sales were to lower-profit fleet buyers rather than individuals.

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