GM to Add Third Shift, 750 Jobs to Flint Pickup Plant

General Motors Co., the largest U.S. automaker, will add a third shift and about 750 jobs to its assembly plant in Flint, Michigan, to meet rising demand for pickups.

The added workers will start in the second quarter, and the additional shift will begin in the third quarter, Detroit-based GM said today in a statement. The Flint Assembly plant, about 70 miles northeast of GM’s headquarters, now employs about 2,100 workers on two shifts, the company said.

U.S. pickup deliveries increased 16 percent to 1.63 million last year, outpacing the overall industry’s 11 percent gain, according to Autodata Corp. Sales by GM’s top-selling Chevrolet brand to small businesses accelerated in the fourth quarter, signaling job growth may hasten this year, the company said.

“This increase in production is not just because we have a great pickup, although we do think we have one,” Mark Reuss, president of GM North America, told reporters and workers at the plant today. “It’s also because we’ve been encouraged by the uptick in housing starts and construction projects across Michigan and across the country.”

GM employs a combined 6,000 workers today in Flint at the assembly plant and other facilities, including engine and metal stamping plants. GM employed about 80,000 workers there in the late 1970s, said Tom Wickham, a GM spokesman.

GM Flint Employment

Flint’s decline was depicted in the 1989 documentary film “Roger and Me,” in which director Michael Moore pursued GM’s former Chief Executive Officer Roger Smith for comment about why the company was closing plants and cutting jobs in the filmmaker’s hometown.

The Flint assembly plant last operated three shifts in the second quarter of 2008, Wickham said. In 2000, Flint became the only city in Michigan and the 16th in the U.S. to have its general obligation bonds downgraded to junk status.

“This has been a remarkably hard period for the company over the last decade, but we are committed to Flint,” Reuss said.

Since emerging from bankruptcy in July 2009, GM has announced $3.8 billion of investments at 24 facilities in the U.S. and Canada, Reuss said. The investments restored or created more than 11,500 jobs, he said.

“We’ve gone through difficult times, amazingly difficult times, but it’s great to see the company back and doing well,” Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, a Republican who took office Jan. 1, told workers at the plant today.

Global Sales

GM delivered about 8.39 million vehicles last year, the company said separately today. That trailed Toyota Motor Corp. by about 30,000 units, making the Japanese automaker the world’s largest for the third straight year. GM’s 12 percent rise in global sales exceeded the 8 percent gain for Toyota City, Japan- based Toyota, which sold 8.42 million units.

GM’s deliveries in China exceeded those in the U.S. for the first time, the company said today. The company’s sales in the world’s largest auto market were 2.35 million, compared with 2.22 million in the U.S.

The automaker’s U.S. sales in January may be “a little bit softer” than its competitors because it has offered less incentives than other automakers, Reuss said.

The company’s incentives as a percentage of transaction prices are below the 10.4 percent average for the industry so far this month, he said.

GM sold 370,135 Chevrolet Silverado pickups last year, a 17 percent increase from 2009. Deliveries of the GMC Sierra climbed 16 percent to 129,794, according to Autodata in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey. The Flint plant produced about 115,000 trucks last year, GM said today.

Small-Business Sales

Deliveries of Chevrolet vehicles to small businesses rose at more than double the rate of the brand’s overall sales in October and November, GM said Jan. 21. Sales to small businesses surged 54 percent from a year earlier in December, faster than the 9.1 percent gain in overall brand deliveries.

Total auto sales in GM’s home market may be as much as 13.5 million in 2011 when including medium-and heavy-duty trucks, the company said on Jan. 4.

Deliveries of light vehicles may rise to 12.9 million vehicles, the average of 17 analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg earlier this month. Sales rebounded to 11.6 million vehicles last year from a 27-year low in 2009, according to Autodata.

To contact the reporter on this story: Craig Trudell in Flint, Michigan, at ctrudell1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jamie Butters at jbutters@bloomberg.net.

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