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GM, Ford, Chrysler adding jobs, near pre-crash employment levels
May. 11, 2011

With General Motors promising Tuesday to add or retain more than 4,000 jobs, the Detroit Three are gaining credence as job creators.

In fact, they're on course to return to the pre-crash employment levels of 2008.

Ford, which restructured without federal aid, now has 76,000 workers -- more than it had in 2008.

Ford also has promised to add 7,000 workers in the next two years, hiring that starts late this year.

Chrysler added 4,300 jobs last year, ending 2010 about 600 shy of its 2008 employment level of 52,200. It also plans to hire 1,000 more.

At GM, U.S. employment stands at 77,000. Based on its forecasts, GM could employ up to 85,000 in the U.S. in the next two years -- closer to the 92,000 it had in 2008.

Rebecca Lindland, an analyst with IHS Automotive, said GM's hiring plans aren't overly ambitious. "It's a goal they can meet," she said.

In many cases, the Detroit Three's job promises in the next few years are dependent on sales hitting forecasts and, in some cases, tax incentives.

Still, the Detroit Three employed 417,623 workers worldwide last year -- a long way off the 1.1 million at the start of the century. But industry experts forecast that the Detroit Three will add as many as 35,000 jobs through 2015.

In a blog post Tuesday, the White House patted itself on the back for the new auto jobs.

Ron Bloom, the president's assistant for manufacturing policy, wrote that because of President Barack Obama's "tough love, the American auto industry is now positioned to grow and prosper. ... Since GM and Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy in June 2009, the auto industry has added 115,000 jobs -- the fastest pace of job growth in the auto industry since 1998."
Detroit 3 light-vehicle sales bouncing back

TOLEDO -- With U.S. auto demand approaching 2008 levels, U.S. employment for the Detroit Three is starting to look like 2008, too.

Despite the crisis at Japanese factories, analysts are still saying U.S. light-vehicle sales will total about 13 million this year -- almost identical to the 13.2 million vehicles Americans bought in 2008.

Back in '08, 13.2 million was a disappointment compared with the 16 million to 17 million in annual U.S. sales to which automakers had grown accustomed. In 2011, however, 13 million sales is a cause for rejoicing -- and rehiring.

That's why in December, the General Motors board approved an upcoming investment of more than $2 billion to update 17 U.S. plants in eight states, adding or preserving 4,000 jobs, primarily in the Midwest.

"We're trying to match supply and demand," GM CEO Dan Akerson told reporters Tuesday at GM's Toledo Transmission plant. "Our cars are selling well. We seem to have hit a sweet spot. And so we're not going to forgo any opportunities."

As the market grows, the Detroit Three should gain more of it, too. GM, Ford and Chrysler gained market share last year for the first time in 16 years, and analysts say they will likely do it again this year as Japan's automakers experience vehicle shortages after a March earthquake and tsunami.

At GM, U.S. employment stands at 77,000. The automaker has promised to add or retain about 9,000 jobs since its bankruptcy, and roughly half of those workers have begun their jobs already.

Including the 4,000 announced Tuesday -- and previously shared plans to add about 1,000 electric vehicle engineers in Michigan in the next two years -- GM could employ as many as 85,000 people in the U.S. in the next two years, compared with the 92,000 it had in 2008.

The automaker has about 1,350 U.S. workers on layoff who will have first dibs on any new jobs. UAW Vice President Joe Ashton said Tuesday that all those people should be back to work by September at the latest.

Then, GM plans to start hiring new workers at its second-tier wage of about $14 an hour, roughly half of what most line workers make.

The nearly 4,000 new and retained jobs, first reported by the Free Press, include about 250 in Toledo to build a new eight-speed transmission after an investment of $204 million to install new equipment, Akerson said.

Besides those jobs, and last week's announcement of 250 new jobs to build Corvettes in Bowling Green, Ky., GM has yet to announce the other plants that make up the 17 involved in the hiring wave. In some cases, those announcements are contingent upon GM's receipt of tax incentives.

The Free Press has reported that the Warren Tech Center and powertrain plants such as those in Spring Hill, Tenn., and Tonawanda, N.Y., are among those targeted for new or preserved jobs. GM also plans to add hundreds of jobs at its Detroit-Hamtramck Chevrolet Volt plant, and it is considering adding up to 2,000 positions there as soon as late summer.

The Detroit-Hamtramck plant will finish making 2011 Volts at the end of the month and then will close to retool for the 2012 model year. Building about 25,000 Volts this year is still possible, Akerson said, and he hopes GM will eventually build more than 100,000 Volts a year.

For now, however, GM's official stance is that it will build 10,000 Volts this year to sell in the U.S. Additional production is contingent on battery production, Akerson said.

"I want more, faster," he said.

The UAW is still hoping GM will agree to add more jobs during contract negotiations this summer, Ashton said. In particular, he said, he's still hoping GM will agree to reopen the assembly plants in Spring Hill and in Janesville, Wis., and keep a compact truck plant in Shreveport, La., from closing.

"We're not looking to make sacrifices," Ashton said. "We've made them."

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