By on August 12, 2010

When GM went into bankruptcy, people had their money on  Saturn going to die. The odds changed a bit when Roger Penske was in talks to buy Saturn. But, in a cruel twist of fate, Saturn was condemned to death by a bunch of executives in France. They vetoed Carlos Ghosn’s idea of supplying Penske with Renault cars for the Saturn brand. The death of Saturn meant that its manufacturing plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee, would join Saturn in the grave. And so it did, along with 800 people who lost their jobs. Suddenly, there is the proverbial glimmer of hope for those 800 workers and the economy of Spring Hill.

WSMV-TV of Nashville reports that Ed Whitacre, CEO of General Motors, has been making noises that idled plants may be brought back online. One out of two, possibly. One is in Janesville, Wisc., and the other Spring Hill. So will Spring Hill be resuscitated? Most certainly, if you believe Mr Mike Herron, chairman of the UAW Local 1853. “We are doing everything we can to get our members back to work here very quickly,” he said, “Spring Hill, by far, is the plant that is ready to go the quickest. It has the newest equipment and it has a work force that is trained and ready to build product.”

The plant manager in Spring Hill issued a more sanguine statement about the prospects for a Spring Hill revive y’all: “At the end of the day, it really comes down to what the market does and if more capacity is needed.”

Oh more capacity is needed, definitely. After all, Hertz, Avis et al can’t buy your cars quick enough!

Yes, yes! It WAS a cheap shot, but the prospect of a double-dip recession means “cheap” is all I can afford! Why do you think I’m working here?

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12 Comments on “Saturn Factory Coming Back In Orbit?...”


  • avatar
    mikey

    Agreed, That was a cheap shot. Eight hundred jobs, Cammy. I’ll bet the folks in Springhill coudn’t give a rats a$$ who buys the f—ken cars.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      I’ll agree with you on this one, mikey. I’m still not on board with the “fleet sales are bad” philosophy, even if the comment was only meant to be a cheap shot.

  • avatar
    dwford

    You don’t re=open a factory because you feel sorry for the people who lost their jobs. You open it to profitably sell the product it produces.

    Why is it always assumed that people from a closed factory are just sitting around dreaming of the day when it reopens. These laid off Saturn workers haven’t gone out to get new jobs?

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      Oh!…Sorry, I guess I never thought of that. Eight Hundred good paying jobs shoudn’t be too hard to find.

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      Yeah, with only five people looking for each job opening in the US it is a wonder why they aren’t all back to work.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      @dwford: I would normally agree with your sentiment, but the factory hasn’t been closed long enough that the 800 workers have found jobs.

      Here in western PA, however, there are still some people pining for Big Steel to return after its departure 30-some years ago. What happened instead was a lot of retraining for other jobs. Some people did better; some did much worse. Their children (like me) didn’t even consider the steel industry as a career.

  • avatar

    If that was the case, the Ford plant here in Wixom should be back humming along. It’s huge and at last memory, one of the largest in the U.S. Eight hundred good paying jobs are hard to find when you live beyond your means, but something tells me that those people were getting by with or without the factory there. Life goes on… Btw, I think this would be a good deal for GM. No sense in leaving capacity unused if people are buying cars… even if it is fleet sales.

  • avatar
    Stingray

    What models was Spring Hill producing? IIRC they were producing CUVs and was recently retolled.

    Most of the workforce must be on other places now, it doesn’t mean they can’t be called back. Depeding on their needs they will accept or not.

    • 0 avatar

      Spring Hill was producing the Chevy Traverse, and had been refurbished and updated to accommodate that. Only a little while after Traverse production began, GM realized that Lansing Delta Township, where they built the Enclave, Acadia and (ahem) Saturn Outlook was under-utilized, so they killed the Outlook with Saturn and consolidated Lambda production at LDT.

      Prior to the Traverse, the plant had only built plastic-bodied Saturn cars, but it had mostly closed for a little while to get ready for Lambda production.

      Spring Hill’s closure is not related to Saturn’s shutdown; as I mentioned a second ago, it was not building any Saturns at the time Saturn was euthanized. But apparently it has flexible manufacturing equipment that will allow it to make many different types of vehicles.

      I believe there is an engine plant on site that is still operating. I think it builds Ecotec four cylinder engines.

  • avatar
    mjz

    GM needs more production capacity for the Equinox/Terrain/SRX, can’t build them fast enough! There is NEVER any inventory of these CUV’s here in the Detroit area.

  • avatar

    GM’s execs touched briefly on capacity issues during today’s conference call. They’re looking at 90 percent utilization on two shifts, meaning capacity could increase 30-40 percent without major fixed-cost increases (i.e. re-opening a plant like Spring Hill). The problem is that current capacity is good for cars (which makes up most of the fleet business) and insufficient for crossover demand. Re-opening Spring Hill would cost some money and drop overall capacity utilization, but it would improve retail sales of its in-demand CUVs. Still, if Traverse demand drops (and with Jeep’s Grand Cherokee and Ford’s Explorer hitting the market, it should), GM doesn’t want Spring Hill’s capacity sitting around… my guess is they’ll play it safe and let demand bring crossover prices up rather than re-opening Spring Hill.
    Incidentally, GM confirmed today that all of its 2,000-odd “new hires” this year are layoff recalls, so two-tier wage savings aren’t much of a factor anyway.


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