Kansas City, KS – The American automaker that took a government bailout to secure its existence today, is about to invest $20 million to boost a car it makes at the Fairfax Assembly Plant in Kansas City Kansas. The announcement was a patting on the back of employees mixed with a whole lot of sales pitch and an amount of "I told you so's" by politicos. KCUR's Dan Verbeck reports. In a small auditorium inside the plant the star was a gleaming black Buick LaCrosse next to a small podium. Kansas Governor Sam Brownback was there to praise the car and infusion of millions to make it more appealing to the buying public.
When Brownback was in the U.S. Senate The Kansas Republican voted for GM's $50 billion bailout. And he noted it in remarks--"I don't like this. I don't like the idea that you've got the government stepping in to do these things but when you've got this incredible situation, what do you do?" Saving GM made the current event possible, the investment in improving the full size sedan that ranks as a General Motors luxury car.
The Governor received applause when he said--"Now for a long time we've said we're going to be a services industry country. Now I'm all for services, but at the end of the day you need to build something. And you guys are doing it. And I'm delighted that we're doing it and on a world class basis of a high input, high quality product that can get 37 miles to the gallon on top of it." The Governor was happy to say he drives a GM car.
KCK Mayor Joe Reardon, too, drives a car that had been made at the plant. And there is no doubt to the mayor, GM Fairfax is a manufacturing mainstay of the community--"I've been in this plant many times and I've been at this plant at the toughest times as well and I was proud to stand with you to articulate to the federal government that what we needed was an investment in this plant and in General Motors and the good men and women who work here." Some 37 hundred men and women work at the plant, the vast majority hourly employees. There's been no talk of adding jobs, rather keeping the workforce intact.
By making a full size car as a hybrid and boosting fuel economy with something called eAssist technology, GM has its figurative fingers crossed. Jim Glynn is GM's Manufacturing top executive-- "the Buick Lacrosse with the eAssist uses various advanced technologies to improve highway efficiency by 25 percent. This investment enables us to continue to introduce new technologies and improvements to an already strong car. And will help continue winning converts to our brands." That means selling new cars, especially this 2012 model that looks like a luxury sedan and is supposed to drink gas like something a lot smaller.
Glynn says Fairfax is current spotlighted, but other plant and cities will be hearing their own varieties of news. In his words, "over the course of the next few months, we'll invest in more than $2 billion in 17 facilities across eight states."
The Kansas Governor said later, GM stock is only half the way up to where the federal government will get a return on its bailout investment. But GM is on right track by building a fuel efficient, competitive car.
If all you seem to hear from politicians and analysts throats in the word "Jobs," Jim Glynn could and would echo some of it. This way, "since the mid two thousand and nine, we've invested $3.4 billion in our U.S. facilities, investments that have created about 9 U.S. thousand jobs. That's 9 thousand American families and as you know the impact goes far beyond that. Of course all this investment means nothing without success in the marketplace and to me as a manufacturing manager success means moving the metal day in and day out, which is what all of you great people do." Chief signal from the investment is.. GM will be in business in KCK for a number more years.