GM investing $245 million into Metro Detroit plant, adding 300 jobs

Bob Wright (left) and Terry Wright work in the body shop at General Motors Orion Assembly Monday, June 22, 2015 in Orion Township, Michigan. General Motors announced today it will invest $245 million in the plant to support the launch of a vehicle program unlike any in Orion Assembly’s 32-year history. Investment in Orion totals $962 million since the UAW and GM worked together to reopen the previously idled plant in 2010. (Photo by Jeffrey Sauger for General Motors) (Jeffrey Sauger)

David Muller | By David Muller | [email protected]

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on June 22, 2015 at 11:00 AM, updated June 22, 2015 at 11:28 AMDETROIT, MI – In the face of layoffs connected to lagging small car sales, General Motors announced Monday it is adding 300 jobs at its Orion Assembly Plant north of Detroit.

It’s part of a $245 million investment there that will go toward launching an all-new vehicle program there.

The investment follows reports earlier this month that GM is laying off 100 workers at the Orion plant beginning this summer amid slow sales for its smaller cars, as well as plans to begin production of the all-new, Chevrolet Bolt electric car.

GM currently produces the Buick Verano and Chevrolet Sonic at the Orion plant, which employs about 1,600 hourly workers and 200 salaried ones.

In the first five months of this year, sales of the Buick Verano dropped 16 percent on an annual basis to 15,279 units. During that same period, sales of the Chevrolet Sonic fell 29 percent to 29,082 units.

In November, GM confirmed it was laying off 160 workers at the Orion site because of slow sales of the smaller cars. Lower fuel prices have been pushing many consumers toward SUVs, trucks and other larger vehicles.

Nevertheless, GM is moving forward with plans to build the Chevy Bolt EV, which it unveiled as a concept in at the Detroit auto show last January, and then announced a month later in Chicago that a production version will be built at the Orion plant. 

GM said it is investing $160 million to launch the Bolt. The automaker has described the electric car as an affordable entry – likely priced in the $30,000 range – that can achieve more than 200 miles on a single electric charge.

In total, GM said it has now invested $962 million at the 32-year-old Orion plant over the past five years.

Monday’s announced investment is part of $5.4 billion GM said it plans to put into its U.S. plants over the next three years. The automaker announced last month that that total includes $783.5 million at three facilities in Michigan: the Pontiac Metal Center, the Lansing Delta Township plant, and the Pre-Production Operations site in Warren.

GM has so far identified $3.1 billion of that investment, and plans to announce another $2.3 billion by the end of the year.

David Muller is the automotive and business reporter for MLive Media Group in Detroit. Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter