GM adding 1,200 autoworkers at Ohio plant

LORDSTOWN, Ohio (AP) - General Motors Corp. said Tuesday it is bringing 1,200 autoworkers back to work this summer to start producing the Chevrolet Cruze compact car at a factory in northeast Ohio.

GM officials said roughly 400 of the jobs at the Lordstown factory will go to laid-off GM workers in the area, and the remaining positions will be open to GM employees across the U.S. The jobs will be added to a third assembly-line shift sometime in the third quarter.

The Cruze, due out later this year, is a key product for GM as it tries to compete in the growing market for small cars. Production was recently put on hold because GM wasn't happy with how it drove. The Lordstown factory, about 50 miles southeast of Cleveland, also makes the Chevrolet Cobalt small car.

"I think this is ground zero for this company and this country to rebuild the Midwest," said Mark Reuss, president of GM North America, referring to the plant.

With the additional jobs, the plant's work force will grow from 3,300 to 4,500. The third shift will generate an estimated $47 million in GM's payroll, about $470,000 in local income taxes and $1.4 million in state income taxes, said Diana Tremblay, GM's head of manufacturing.

A foundry that produces engine blocks in Defiance, a metal stamping center in Parma and a transmission-producing power center in Toledo will also be put to work on the Cruze, Tremblay said, though she did not know if that would translate to more jobs at those facilities.

"The newest American car will be made right here in Ohio," said Gov. Ted Strickland. "I believe in Ohio because I believe in our work force."

The announcement, a bright spot in job-hungry northeast Ohio, also signals how much GM is banking on the Cruze to succeed. The sleeker, lighter car will be targeted at younger entry-level buyers as well as those seeking fuel economy. It's supposed to get around 40 mpg on the highway.

"This car is gonna pass the competition like a freight train passing a hobo," said Jim Graham, president of one of two United Auto Workers locals at the Lordstown complex.

GM postponed the Cruze's April build date about three months because the company wasn't happy with its performance, especially with the six-speed automatic transmission. Since last July, GM has said it is restoring a total of 5,500 jobs at plants across the nation.

GM and Chrysler both entered and exited bankruptcy in 2009, when Americans bought the fewest cars of any year since 1982. In all, U.S. sales of cars and trucks totaled 10.4 million, roughly 700,000 of them with the help of the government's Cash for Clunkers rebates.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)