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Lake Orion to assemble Malibus, too

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Orion plant cheers Malibu work
Oakland Co. factory will manufacture 10 to 25 percent of redesigned sedan, which has garnered glowing reviews
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Sharon Terlep | Link to Original Article @ The Detroit News

A few months ago, workers at General Motors Corp.'s Orion assembly plant weren't sure their factory would survive past this decade.

But now, they're gearing up to help build the Chevrolet Malibu, one of GM's most promising new cars. It's work that could add up to 300 jobs by next spring, local union leaders said.

Workers learned this week that the sprawling factory in northern Oakland County will manufacture anywhere from 10 percent to 25 percent of the much-hyped new Malibu. The car is mainly being built at GM's Fairfax plant in Kansas City, Kan.

Workers are so elated by the news the line will shut down for a quick celebration later this month, before work starts on the Malibu on Dec. 3.

"Everybody's real happy -- this means a future here," said Mike Dunn, shop chairman for United Auto Workers Local 5960, which represents the plant's 2,000 rank-and-file workers. "Most plants are laying off, and we're adding workers."

The victory didn't come easy. To snag Malibu production, Dunn said, the plant had to prove it could meet strict quality standards.

The local also likely agreed to adopt money-saving work rules as part of GM's efforts to implement so-called competitive operating agreements at each of its factories.

Orion is one of a handful of factories where workers have ratified a local contract with GM as part of this year's labor talks between the UAW and Detroit's three automakers. A national agreement between GM and the union was approved Oct. 10 by rank-and-file workers.

The news is a bright spot amid a painful few weeks for Detroit automakers and their workers. Chrysler LLC on Thursday said it would cut 12,000 more hourly and salaried jobs. GM recently announced more than 2,000 layoffs at three Michigan plants.

The timing of the cuts stung workers after they recently ratified labor deals with the automakers that were supposed to save factory jobs.

Under the GM contract, Orion was promised the job of building the Pontiac G6 through 2013, but nothing else.

If the Malibu is a hit, Dunn said, the factory could produce as many as 100,000 Malibus in addition to 150,000 G6s. "We fully expect the product to be hot," GM spokesman Tom Wickham said. "We want to have the capacity."

Early reviews of the Malibu, which went on sale this week, have been glowing, and the automaker said a massive Internet ad blitz last month drew record numbers to its Chevy Web site, including tens of thousands of people asking for quotes and dealership information.

Critical acclaim doesn't guarantee success, however.

Competition is tough in the crowded segment, dominated for years by the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.

Dunn will most likely be among the car's top cheerleaders.

"It the first Chevy we've ever built," at the factory, he said. "It reminds you of a Cadillac, but not for the cost."

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Would it not be smarter (cost wise) to produce all Malibu's at Fairfax and produce the Aura at Orion instead? I guess now it doesn't make any difference, but if Orion is going to produce 100k Malibus (the Aura's initial target), it would seem that Fairfax would be able to produce an additional 100k Malibus if it wasn't producing the Aura.

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