20 October 2010

GM to build Verano Compact at Orion Plant

Detroit Free Press

General Motors will build its Buick Verano compact car at its plant in Orion Township, giving a higher-priced model to the factory that also will build the smallest car assembled in the U.S.

GM is investing $145 million at the plant, and it will employ about 1,550 hourly and salaried workers, North American President Mark Reuss said today in Orion. The two Orion cars also account for about 120 jobs in Pontiac. Reuss confirmed the Verano news, reported by the Free Press on Monday. He said the small car will be Buick's first in about 20 years, a necessity as GM expects consumers to turn to small cars as federal fuel economy standards increase.

The Orion factory is retooling for the launch of the Chevrolet Aveo subcompact, which will start production Aug. 1, said plant manager Alicia Boler-Davis.

Reuss confirmed GM may change the Aveo’s name before it launches, which the Free Press first reported today. If the name changes, GM is likely to pick a name that’s new to Chevrolet, instead of borrowing a discarded name from the past. That’s because “I think this is a breakthrough car,” Reuss said.

Reuss said he first asked about changing the Aveo’s name when he was promoted from vice president of engineering to his current job in December. He said confusion on how to pronounce “Aveo” was one reason GM is considering the idea.

Workers at the Orion plant, which was slated to close until GM granted it the Aveo production, this week learned of the labor agreement that GM hopes will help make the Aveo profitable. About 60% of the plant's blue-collar workers will make the UAW's full, $28 hourly wage, while the rest will make about half that amount.

Reuss said the Aveo would be profitable within its first life cycle, often five to seven years.

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