News Column

GM Upping Investment in Wentzville Plant

June 26, 2013
2012 Chevy Colorado (photo: GM)

Less than two years after General Motors announced a massive expansion of its assembly plant in Wentzville, Mo., the facility is getting an additional $133 million investment with a third stamping press system.

The Detroit-based automaker said Wednesday it will start construction next month on a new 114,000-square-foot stamping plant addition in Wentzville. Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana vans are produced at the existing 3.7 million-square-foot manufacturing facility. Since opening in 1983, the Wentzville plant has produced more than 2 million vans.

The expansion will create or retain 55 jobs, the plant manager, Nancy Laubenthal, told the Post-Dispatch. The plant currently has about 2,000 employees. Employees were notified of the additional investment Wednesday morning.

GM announced in November 2011 that it planned to invest $380 million in the Wentzville facility to make way for production of next-generation midsize pickups, Chevrolet Colorado and the GMC Canyon. Construction began last year on those upgrades to the plant, including a 500,000-square-foot body shop, which has been completed.

GM has not released a production start date for the pickups, but Van Simpson, vice president of Local 2250 of the United Auto Workers, said the first pickups are set to come off the line in August 2014.

With the new stamping press, GM's investment at the Wentzville plant grows to $513 million.

"We're very pleased that General Motors is again expanding operations at its Wentzville plant," Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said in a statement. "Today's announcement is another great win for Missouri workers and our economy."

The new stamping press system, slated to be operational in early 2015, will make the facility more flexible, said Laubenthal, who was named plant manager in January. The press -- which will form steel into fenders, doors and other parts for GM's vans and pickups -- will allow for increased stamping capacity. The press system weighs about 6.5 million pounds and stands 30 feet tall.

"It's really a vote of confidence for the plant and team here," Laubenthal said. Laubenthal's career spans more than a quarter century at GM. She previously was a plant manager for GM in Mexico and in Michigan.

GM has added stamping presses at other plants recently, including a new $200 million stamping press addition in Arlington, Texas.

The extra investment is a positive sign for the Wentzville plant's future, said Local 2250 Chairman Mike Bullock. When GM emerged from bankruptcy in July 2009, there were no product commitments in place at the Wentzville plant beyond 2011. "The job security today is better than it was four years ago," Bullock said.

Employees were told about the new investment just a few days before the production shuts down for four weeks to transfer equipment for the new 2014 van models. Production resumes July 29.

"We've come along way in terms of securing the future of the plant," said Tom Brune, UAW communications coordinator for Local 2250.

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(c)2013 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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Source: Copyright St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO) 2013


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