When General Motors Corp. started building cars in this sleepy farming town nearly 15 years ago, the Saturn plant was touted as a key component of the automaker's vision for the future.
But now this thriving Nashville suburb finds itself recast as another in a long list of Rust Belt survivors — worried about its economic future as , including a production line in Spring Hill where the Ion compact car is produced. Other communities in Oklahoma, Georgia, Michigan and Canada are also facing a future without GM jobs.
"You hate to see jobs go," Spring Hill Mayor Danny Leverette said. "That's where my heart is — first and foremost with the employees. GM is in some tough times now, but I remain an optimist."
CBS News business correspondent Anthony Mason reports General Motor's CEO Rick Wagoner told his employees today the company's hourly workforce will be cut by about 25 percent over the next three years as GM tries to stop soaring losses. GM's share of the U.S. market fell three percent over the past year, and
Mason reports the company is now projected to lose $5 billion for the year, and last week, it's stock price hit an 18-year low.
Neither union nor GM officials are specifying how many jobs could be lost when the Saturn Ion production line shuts down in 2006. But any layoffs would be the first at Spring Hill, which GM thrust into the spotlight 20 years ago when it announced it was creating a new kind of car division that could better compete with low-cost imports from Toyota, Honda and Nissan.
The plant, where a separate line will remain open for the assembly of Vue SUVs, employs about 5,700 and is one of the state's largest employers.
Saturn once billed itself as "a different kind of company" making "a different kind of car," but after a promising start, Saturn let the car's look and technology get stale. New models were finally introduced, but to mixed results. The Ion production line was shut down for at least 15 weeks in 2004 as sales failed to meet the company's expectations.
Monday's news about plant closings left employees stunned at GM's Oklahoma City assembly plant, where the midsize Chevrolet TrailBlazer and GMC Envoy SUVs are produced. Two thousand hourly and 200 salaried employees will be out of work by 2006.
Warren Evans, a GM employee at the Oklahoma City plant since 1983, said he and many workers at the plant were skeptical of GM's decision to retool the plant several years ago. "When they put this new product in there, the SUV, I knew it wasn't going to work out," he said. "The market was already flooded with the SUVs.
"The engineers, to me, they're stuck on stupid. They never talk to us, the people on the line."
At other GM sites where cuts were announced, employees knew reductions were in the works but faulted the company for short notice of the decisions.
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