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Detroit-Hamtramck plant recharges for Volt, Malibu

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Detroit-Hamtramck plant recharges for Volt, Malibu

Robert Snell / The Detroit News

General Motors Co. will build the 2012 Chevrolet Malibu at its Detroit-Hamtramck plant, The Detroit News has learned, adding to news announced Monday that the company plans to spend $336 million upgrading the factory to also produce the Chevrolet Volt.

The Malibu move is a major production shift for one of GM's best-selling vehicles and a coup for Michigan, which has given the automaker incentives worth several hundred million dollars to build vehicles in a state hit hard by manufacturing job losses. The Volt announcement boosts GM's total investment in the extended-range electric car to $700 million in Michigan.

Jon Lauckner, GM vice president of global product planning, confirmed there are plans to build new vehicles at the plant, including the Opel Ampera, the European version of the Volt. The Ampera initially will be built there, but he declined to be specific about additional models.

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However, UAW Local 22 chairman Frank Moultrie said Monday that GM has committed to building the 2012 Malibu at the Detroit-Hamtramck plant. That means the plant would build one of the most technologically advanced vehicles in the Volt and the next generation Malibu, which is currently built at GM's Fairfax plant in Kansas.

It is unclear whether adding Malibu production will require more workers at the plant, which employs 1,013 hourly and 133 salaried workers. It opened in 1985 and also produces the Cadillac DTS and Buick Lucerne.

Workers at the Detroit-Hamtramck plant also hope to land future vehicles that share the Volt's electric underpinnings. The News first reported last month GM's board of directors approved building the Cadillac Converj, a luxury version of the Volt.

"We're trying to get the whole line of electric vehicles," Moultrie said. "If we did, we would be putting our best foot forward."

Lauckner would not comment on the Converj, but new products would help boost production at the plant, which has the capacity to build a couple hundred thousand vehicles per year.

"Stay tuned," he said.

GM spokesman Chris Lee declined to comment on bringing Malibu production to Detroit-Hamtramck.

Malibu may spread out

The 2012 Malibu, a revamped version of the award-winning midsize car, was discussed with reporters in August during a sneak peek at GM's future lineup, but the automaker did not say where the car would be built.

During 2007 labor talks between GM and the United Auto Workers, the automaker committed to building an unspecified Chevrolet midsized car in Hamtramck in 2012 and simultaneously said Malibu production at GM's Fairfax plant would continue until 2011.

Until last month, the Malibu also was produced in Orion Township, but the plant is being retooled to build a next-generation small car.

It is possible, based on demand that the 2012 Malibu will be built in more than one plant, said auto analyst Jim Hall of 2953 Analytics in Birmingham.

"The next-generation Malibu will be slightly smaller, get better fuel economy and they may find demand for the car goes up and may need multiple plants," Hall said. "The Malibu traditionally has been a multiple-plant vehicle when the market was doing well."

The Volt announcement Monday was the latest in a prolonged campaign leading up to the vehicle's production late next year.

"We expect the Detroit-Hamtramck plant will be the first facility in the U.S. owned by a major automaker to produce an electric car," Lauckner said. "It is the hub for the wheel that we began rolling in 2007 when the Volt debuted at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit."

Volt a Mich. product

The Volt will let commuters travel up to 40 miles on electric power. The engine kicks in after its battery is drained by about 70 percent to sustain the battery's remaining charge to keep the car running for several hundred miles. It will be built in Hamtramck and powered by lithium-ion battery packs assembled at a plant in Brownstown Township. The Volt's four-cylinder engine, meanwhile, will be made at the Flint Engine South plant.

In total, eight facilities in Michigan will contribute to Volt production, including tooling from a plant in Grand Blanc and camshafts and connecting rods from Bay City.

"The Volt and the electrification of vehicles is all a part of Michigan's strategy to really emerge from a very, very difficult period in our economic history in a stronger position," Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm said after driving a Volt to a stage erected in the middle of the plant.

GM plans on producing about 8,000 Volts for the 2011 model year before eventually expanding to as many as 60,000.

GM will save money upgrading the plant by using equipment taken from other GM facilities.

The Volt will be built on an existing assembly line, and prototype vehicles will begin production next spring.

"This investment is great news for the work force as it helps pave the way for the future and the electrification of the automobile," said Cal Rapson, vice president and director of the United Auto Workers.

Last week at the Los Angeles auto show, GM announced the Volt will be sold in California and other undisclosed markets before launching nationally.

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so I guess 2011 will be the last for the Cadillac DTS and Buick Lucerne? are they planning on replacing those two with anything? Id come up with one platform and sell those two and a new Impala on the same platform.

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so I guess 2011 will be the last for the Cadillac DTS and Buick Lucerne?

pretty sure that's been nearly confirmed. it's come up in maybe a few other threads.

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malibu is right sized now the way it is. they had better be careful not to make it too small....

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In the past, things (iPods, computers, etc.) were designed and engineered in the USA, then assembled elsewhere using cheap labor. Interestingly, there's now a reversal with new Chevy cars - the latest Daewoos coming our way (Tosca and Lacetti, aka Malibu/Epica and Cruze) will be manufactured in America.

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so I guess 2011 will be the last for the Cadillac DTS and Buick Lucerne? are they planning on replacing those two with anything? Id come up with one platform and sell those two and a new Impala on the same platform.

Yes. Build out could be as soon as March....

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