Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Chevrolet Sonic production gets underway

General Motors Co began "regular" production on Monday of its subcompact Chevrolet Sonic at a Detroit-area plant, GM head of manufacturing and engineering Kenneth Knight said. 

The start of production is a key accomplishment for GM and the United Auto Workers union, which agreed to lower worker pay to allow the No. 1 US automaker to make a profit on the low-cost subcompact. 

Up to 40 per cent of the production workforce at GM's Lake Orion plant north of Detroit can be of the so-called "second tier," workers hired at about half the pay of veteran union-represented auto workers. 

"Today is the start of regular production," said Knight on the sidelines of an industry conference at a Traverse City resort. "Today is the day we press the button and 'go live.'" 

A limited number of Sonic models have been produced at the plant, but Monday was the first day of official production for consumers. 

The Sonic will reach full production next year and the plant will also begin producing the compact Buick Verano in the fourth quarter. 

GM has about 1,750 workers at the Lake Orion plant, of which about 1,600 are hourly employees and represented by the UAW. 

Lake Orion is also different from most GM plants in that it has suppliers located on the plant site in an effort to cut costs. 

"It's part of our sub-assembly philosophy, it's part of our lean manufacturing principles," said Knight, referring to the way suppliers arrange parts that are later assembled by GM production line workers. 

The Sonic takes the place in the Chevrolet lineup of the Aveo subcompact, which was produced by GM's South Korean auto unit, Daewoo, now called GM Korea. 

Joe Ashton, UAW vice president for GM relations, has said that without the agreement allowing so many second-tier workers at Lake Orion, the Sonic would not have been made in the United States. 


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