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GM cuts jobs, production at Orion factory

Sales for touted Pontiac G6 slip amid intense competition; output will be reduced in April.

Brett Clanton / The Detroit News

Not everything Oprah touches turns to gold.

Lukewarm sales of the new Pontiac G6 sedan, featured by the talk show host in a massive giveaway last year, have prompted General Motors Corp. to cut production of the car beginning in April.

GM said the Orion Township plant where the car is built will reduce G6 output by more than 10 percent and lay off an unspecified number of workers.

Workers at the factory said they were told last week that 250 to 400 people will be laid off across two production shifts. The layoffs will target workers with the least seniority, said Janene Emswiller, 34, of White Lake Township. She has worked at the Orion Township plant since last spring. Laid off from another GM plant prior to landing in Orion Township, Emswiller said she had high hopes for her new assignment since knew it was a key car for GM.

"I thought I was safe," she said. "But clearly, I'm not."

The cutbacks are a troubling sign for one of GM's most-touted new cars, which the struggling automaker has held up as a competitor to midsize stalwarts such as the Honda Accord and a vital plank in a makeover of its Pontiac brand.

While GM blames the decision on intense competition in the midsize car market, industry analysts say the automaker has made key missteps with the vehicle that also may have stunted sales.

Among them was the decision to introduce a four-door sedan before a well-received coupe version was available in showrooms.

"When they didn't offer that coupe initially, they lost a lot of momentum with the vehicle," said Rebecca Lindland, analyst with Global Insight in Lexington, Mass.

The production cuts in Orion Township come as GM is embarking on a sweeping restructuring of its ailing North American auto business, which lost $5.3 billion in 2005 due to slumping sales of its profitable SUVs, high materials costs and increasing foreign competition.

Under the plan, GM will close or downsize six assembly plants and several other components facilities and cut 30,000 U.S. hourly jobs in order to bring its plant capacity in line with demand for its vehicles.

The Orion cuts, however, come as a surprise since GM added a second 900-worker shift at the plant last spring to support stronger-than-expected sales of the G6. The automaker is also preparing to build a new convertible G6 with a unique glass-panel roof -- new work that appeared to further solidify the plant's position.

GM said the production cuts in Orion should not be viewed as a troubling sign for the vehicle.

"G6 sales were up significantly in the fourth quarter of 2005 and are actually growing when the mid-size car market is shrinking," said GM spokesman Dan Flores.

The cuts are the result of harsh competition in the midsize car category and are a way for the automaker to bring production to a "sustainable G6 volume in the long term," he said.

GM sold nearly 125,000 G6s last year. At the end of the year, about 35,000 G6s were on dealer lots.

The Orion plant will be idled during the weeks of April 3 and April 10, in part to make tooling adjustments for the G6 convertible, Flores said. Work will resume April 17.

At present, the factory has 2,900 hourly workers and 200 salaried positions.

Flores said any union workers laid off will continue to receive pay under existing labor contracts.

"Details are still being ironed out, but appropriate plans will be provided to the employees who are impacted," Flores said.

Pat Sweeney, president of UAW Local 5960, which represents workers in Orion, declined to comment.

The Pontiac G6 was introduced last year amid a blast of publicity, most notably with a promotion by GM to give away 276 of the new cars to guests of the Oprah Winfrey Show.

Riding a tide of good press, GM said the G6 posted more than a 50 percent sales increase over the aging Grand AM it replaced and cleared about $5,000 more per vehicle.

Within a year, it had become the 11th-best selling car in the U.S. and won several consumer-based industry awards.

"There are a group of people out there who really like Pontiac and what they're doing," said Daniel Gorrell, vice president with Strategic Vision, a San Diego-based industry firm. "They're just aren't very many of them."

In part, that's due to negative associations with Pontiac, which has been starved for new products and so damaged by heavy rebates in recent years that consumers won't consider one of its models, he said.

"If your last name is Oswald," Gorrell said, "people always will associate you with Lee Harvey."

The G6 should get a bump from the launch of the new convertible, arriving by March, Global Insight's Lindland said.

But the car will continue to face challenges wooing buyers in a category that includes everything from the Volkswagen Jetta to the Nissan Altima. "When you're dealing with the midsize segment," she said, "buyers can easily go somewhere else."

(Detroit News)

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Maybe GM should take a hint and give it a refreshening... You know... to actually make it competitive while improving it's styling. That's it... I'm making a proposal. Maybe with sketches. Something needs done, damnit.

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The sedan is much goofier-looking than the coupe. The coupe and convertible both have a proper, straight beltline, whereas the sedan has this gouge in it around the side mirrors. Ugly. The taillights are cheaped-out on the sedan. The interiors in all models blow chunks.

If GM gave them really good interiors, then I might be able to forgive the nasty exterior of the sedan. They really just need good interiors.

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The sedan is much goofier-looking than the coupe.  The coupe and convertible both have a proper, straight beltline, whereas the sedan has this gouge in it around the side mirrors.  Ugly.  The taillights are cheaped-out on the sedan.  The interiors in all models blow chunks.

If GM gave them really good interiors, then I might be able to forgive the nasty exterior of the sedan.  They really just need good interiors.

I still don't see what's so proper about a straight beltline. Although, in the G6's case, I think a straight one suits it better. Taillights on the coupe and sedan are both cheap, btw. Still, the sedan looks better as it's ass doesn't look so f**ked up... :P

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I still don't see what's so proper about a straight beltline. Although, in the G6's case, I think a straight one suits it better. Taillights on the coupe and sedan are both cheap, btw. Still, the sedan looks better as it's ass doesn't look so f**ked up... :P

I know this is subjective, but I believe there was a poll, and the G6 coupe overwhelmingly won as the more attractive of the two.

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I think the kick-up and very fast line of the rear windows gives my G6 sedan a look that no other sedan has. It will not get lost in the AccordCamryMalibuTaurusImpalaGalant shuffle like everything else.

My wife likens it to a cat pouncing and the reason she wanted the G6 over the Malibu Maxx.

And the interior is not bad at all. Not much I would really change.

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The automaker is also preparing to build a new convertible G6 with a unique glass-panel roof -- new work that appeared to further solidify the plant's position.

Did the steel roof on the convertible get replaced with glass and no one told me??

The G6 sedan's styling has always reminded me of the previous generation Audi A4. Couple that with they now offer the manual trans option and it shows Pontiac is trying. The interior was where I was hoping they'd focus their efforts for now. The move to the 3 spoke steering wheel was a good start.

Longterm, I still hope they drop the G6 name, replace it with a RWD/manual trans replacement and call it LeMans or something like that. Coupe, convertible, and wagon body styles. Their niche should be to steal sales away from CPO BMW 3-Series cars with this car...leave Honda, Toyota, etc to Chevy and Saturn with a FWD car. Pontiac could become a "premium small car" similar to MINI and fill the RWD void underneath Cadillac while not overlapping with Chevy, Saturn, etc. Premium image fits with the combined PBG dealer model.

Apple was considered a "damaged brand" at one point too...

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I think my problem with the kink on the sedan is that the chrome molding along the bottom of the greenhouse over-emphasizes it as the most prominent line on the side of the car. If Pontiac blacked that molding out, a la the SEMA Rousch G6, then I think it would look a whole lot better.

GM really did royally botch the G6 launch. At least the coupes and sedans (and all engines/trannies) should have been ready at launch. It wouldn't have been too much of a travesty to keep pumping out GAs for one more full model year, and release the G6 as a MY06 vehicle.

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I think my problem with the kink on the sedan is that the chrome molding along the bottom of the greenhouse over-emphasizes it as the most prominent line on the side of the car. If Pontiac blacked that molding out, a la the SEMA Rousch G6, then I think it would look a whole lot better.

GM really did royally botch the G6 launch. At least the coupes and sedans (and all engines/trannies) should have been ready at launch. It wouldn't have been too much of a travesty to keep pumping out GAs for one more full model year, and release the G6 as a MY06 vehicle.

Yeah, 3500-only 4door. Not that exciting. They also made a big deal out of the panoramic sunroof; I haven't heard anything about it in a while, makes me wonder if anyone got it. It also didn't help that the original press pictures were in that horrible green color at awkward angles:

Posted Image

Yeah...

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>>"...key missteps with the vehicle that also may have stunted sales.

Among them was the decision to introduce a four-door sedan before a well-received coupe version was available in showrooms."<<

Yeah; that altima coupe has done really really well for nis.... waitaminnit.

>>"It also didn't help that the original press pictures were in that horrible green color at awkward angles:"<<

Yeah- a 3/4 front shot is terrifically awkward. No oneever looks at or photographs cars that way. :rolleyes:

>>"refreshening... You know... to actually make it competitive "<<

Yeah... 'refresh'... to make... 'competitive' uh-huh. Because it's not competiing with anything as the 11th most popular car in the U.S after 1 model year. Yupper-doodle!

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Should have been more like the concept, I'm so angry that GM never seem to do it well. What the H... is going on at GM's.

exactly. That's all my thoughts at why it's a failure.

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I really don't think it's a failure. Like Balthy said, it is the 11th best selling car in the US after one model year. It's just not living up to GM's expectations, which may have been too high to begin with. So lets not call it a "failure" just yet.

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I really don't think it's a failure. Like Balthy said, it is the 11th best selling car in the US after one model year. It's just not living up to GM's expectations, which may have been too high to begin with. So lets not call it a "failure" just yet.

Half of them are probably fleet sales.

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I agree that all styles should have been available from the start. I think a 2.4L/5 speed combo should be available on the sedan, at least. I think the sedan's taillights are too bland.

I like the unique beltline drop on the sedan. I love the coupe as it is. The interior is fine with me, even the tan with wood trim. I think it's a good effort. I believe this article is more GM bashing... unnecessary.

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>>"It also didn't help that the original press pictures were in that horrible green color at awkward angles:"<<

Yeah- a 3/4 front shot is terrifically awkward. No oneever looks at or photographs cars that way. :rolleyes:

I'll ignore your malicious sarcasm and instead post a picture at a good angle:

Posted Image

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In that pic it looks like the front-end is twisting off.

Still, I get the looks of the G6... the downward-sloping-to-the-A-pillar-beltline, the long front overhang, the short rear overhang, and the proximity of the front wheels to the front doors are all very mid-engined supercar'ish, but it's just that the execution was a bit crappy. The G6 can look good with those proportions if GM tried harder.

Edited by empowah

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I much prefer the look of the sedan. We all know they botched the launch by not having all models / engines ready from the start. I still think the G6 can build momentum and sell 200k a year once people start seeing them on the road. All of GM's bad press about bankruptcy etc is surely hurting sales of all thier models. I'm hoping in 07 they'll add Onstar and side airbags as standard equipment.

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I know this is subjective, but I believe there was a poll, and the G6 coupe overwhelmingly won as the more attractive of the two.

Uh... No. That was poll for whether you liked the coupe or not and was not just about the styling. There was nothing about the sedan in it and was alot more than just styling.

>>"...key missteps with the vehicle that also may have stunted sales.

Among them was the decision to introduce a four-door sedan before a well-received coupe version was available in showrooms."<<

Yeah; that altima coupe has done really really well for nis.... waitaminnit.

>>"It also didn't help that the original press pictures were in that horrible green color at awkward angles:"<<

Yeah- a 3/4 front shot is terrifically awkward. No oneever looks at or photographs cars that way. :rolleyes:

>>"refreshening... You know... to actually make it competitive "<<

Yeah... 'refresh'... to make... 'competitive' uh-huh. Because it's not competiing with anything as the 11th most popular car in the U.S after 1 model year. Yupper-doodle!

:rolleyes: (in responce to you and anyone else) To say it is currently competitive is to be blind. Still, it isn't a failure by any means, but it is far from the head of the class. What can't you guys understand about that? It's uncompetitive. It's not bashing if it's true. That's coming from a freaking Pontiac fan... Enjoy having your head stuck up your ass? Obviously so...

I like the G6, but it is far from perfect. It's bland, it's outdated, it's somewhat weird, and it's simply uncompetitive. 4spd autos? OHV engines? Overweight chassis? GMCSD plus subpar materials and fit/finish? Mismatched details? Lack of high tech features? Bland and weird design? Poor packaging? ...Need I continue? No matter how you put it, it needs refresh to be competitive.

BTW, sales aren't proof of anything. Have you forgotten which car is the number one selling car? Yeah... the Camry, which is by far not the best in it's class. Sales mean nothing at this point. GM can't afford to have mediocre product whether it can sell it or not. This kind of product isn't winning back customers. Class leading product would. Period.

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We all know they botched the launch by not having all models / engines ready from the start.

Well, one of Pontiac's targets in some segments is nissan, and we all know nissan botched the launch by not having all models / engines ready from the start with the altima. So it's really more like flattery than 'botchery', right? Emulating nissan here?

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The G6 is an attractive vehicle, especially the coupe. The "kick-up" gives it a distinctiveness that separates it from the Japanese lookalikes. And compared to the Fusion, it's got a very attractive domestic content sticker on the back window. A five or six-speed transmission would help, though, and the marketing could sure be improved - a "G6" means nothing to most people.

If I were in the market for a new car right now, I'd consider buying a GTP coupe or sedan.

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