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Chevy Volt to be Built at Detroit-Hamtramck (with $336 Million Investment)

The 2010 Chevrolet Volt, with a small gas engine serving only to provide power for the electric motor, will be produced in GM's 25-year-old Detroit-Hamtramck plant, with a $336 million investment by the company. That brings to $700 million GM's total investment in the Volt

Detroit-Hamtramck opened in 1985, and how has 1,200 workers making the Cadillac DTS and the Buick Lucerne. The Volt will be built on the same assembly line, with the Buick and Cadillac built alongside it. The first prototype Volts are expected to emerge in the spring, and spokesman Rob Peterson says that those cars (a few hundred) will be rolling test beds driven by GM employees on public roads in tests of quality levels. Actual production cars are scheduled for late in 2010, with about 8,000 produced for the 2011 model year.

According to Jon Lauckner a GM vice president of global product planning, Detroit-Hamtramck is "the hub for the wheel that got rolling in 2007." Seven other facilities will contribute to the Volt (including tooling from Grand Blanc, lithium-ion batteries from Brownstown, camshafts and connecting rods from Bay City and the 1.4-liter engine-generator from Flint.

The Hamtramck plant is on Detroit's border. Peterson describes Hamtramck, which like the much less appealing Highland Park is completely within Detroit's city limits, as a "cute little Polish town."

Indeed it is. Technically a city, Hamtramck has 22,000 people, many of them descended from Polish immigrants who arrived to work at Dodge Brothers when it opened in 1914. Now a sprinkling of Yemenis and Bangladeshis adds some spice to the Polish sausage (the diverse city is still a quarter Polish descent). A bid to use speakers to broadcast the Muslim call to prayer was turned back. Some 26 languages are spoken in the Hamtramck public schools, and the city (like Royal Oak) has a thriving music scene.

The other auto plant in Hamtramck is operated by Detroit Axle, but last April American Axle and Manufacturing said--shades of Roger and Me--that it was closing Hamtramck, laying off several hundred people, and moving operations to Mexico.

The news that the glamorous Volt will be built in Hamtramck is great news for an embattled region whose status as America's auto capital has been somewhat in doubt. GM claims that the Detroit-Hamtramck plant "is expected to be the first facility in the U.S. owned by a major automaker to produce an electric car." A bunch of qualifiers in there.

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