General Motors will invest $600 million to expand its Kansas City plant, which builds the Chevrolet Malibu and Buick LaCrosse sedans.
The automaker said Monday that it would construct a new 450,000-square-foot paint shop at its 3.2 million-square-foot Fairfax assembly and stamping plant. It also plans to install a new stamping press and incorporate new environmentally friendly technologies.
The company said the construction would not increase employment or production schedules at the plant, which has about 4,000 hourly and salaried employees working three shifts.
The announcement comes less than two weeks after GM North America President Mark Reuss said in Detroit that GM would soon reveal $1.5 billion in fresh investments this year in its North American operations.
GM said the Fairfax expansion is one of its "largest plant investments ever."
GM CEO Dan Akerson, who rarely appears at plant announcements, traveled to Kansas City to discuss the expansion.
"This major investment is a vote of confidence in the employees and leadership of this plant and will allow them to continue producing beautiful, world-class vehicles like the Chevrolet Malibu and Buick LaCrosse - with the same quality workmanship that has defined the Fairfax complex for nearly 70 years," Akerson said in a statement.
GM has spent close to $2 billion into the Fairfax plant in the past decade, including $722 million in 2003 for the construction of the 2004 Malibu and $158 million in 2009 for the assembly of the then-all-new LaCrosse. The plant produced the Saturn Aura until the Saturn brand was discontinued in GM's 2009 bankruptcy.
GM is expected to upgrade the Malibu later this year after the vehicle struggled to keep up with its competitors in 2012. Malibu sales rose 3 percent in 2012 to 210,951 units, while LaCrosse sales fell 2.4 percent to 57,076.
The investment reflects an improvement in labor relations at Fairfax since 2008, when United Auto Workers members there went on strike to protest contract terms at the plant.
"The United Auto Workers have proudly built vehicles in Fairfax for decades and looks forward to being part of the upgrades that will be taking place in the plant," UAW Vice President Joe Ashton, who leads the union's GM department, said in a statement. "This commitment to the future of the plant and the workforce is a reminder to all of us that we build the world's best vehicles, with the world's best people."
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