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G.M. to Hire 1,000 to Engineer More Electric Cars

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A General Motors worker assembles a Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid after the official Volt launch at G.M.’s plant in Detroit on Tuesday.
Published: November 30, 2010

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DETROIT — General Motors is adding 1,000 jobs in Michigan to develop more electric and hybrid vehicles similar to the Chevrolet Volt, which it officially introduced on Tuesday, the company said.

The new jobs, in engineering and research, are the latest commitment by G.M. to broaden its lineup of energy-efficient models as well as to invest in its home state, which has the nation’s second-highest unemployment rate.
G.M.’s chief executive, Daniel F. Akerson, announced the jobs in a ceremony for the start of production of the Volt at a plant in the city of Hamtramck, which adjoins downtown Detroit.
With plant workers cheering him on, Mr. Akerson said the plug-in hybrid Volt was proof that G.M. would be a leader in new technology in the aftermath of its $50 billion government bailout last year.
“I believe and our board believes that electrification is critical to the global automotive industry,” said Mr. Akerson.
Michigan has been among the states hit hardest by the recession and the shrinking of Detroit’s Big Three automakers.
The state has lost an estimated 800,000 jobs in the last decade, and it has an unemployment rate of 12.8 percent, behind only Nevada’s 14.2 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The G.M. jobs are part of a growing list of investments in the state by companies building batteries and other parts integral to electric cars, said Gov. Jennifer Granholm. “Seventeen companies are making batteries or are suppliers for batteries and are projected to create 63,000 jobs in the state over the next decade,” she said.
In addition to G.M.’s announcement, Chrysler said Tuesday that it would hire 1,000 new engineers and technicians by early next year to work on its next generation of small and midsize cars.
G.M. has already invested $700 million in eight facilities in Michigan in support of the Volt. The company said it would add the jobs over the next two years.
Mr. Akerson drove the first Volt off the assembly line on stage for Tuesday’s ceremony.
That car will be kept by the company for display at its G.M. Heritage Center museum. The second Volt made in Hamtramck will be auctioned off to raise money for math and science education in the Detroit public schools.
The Volt has become something of a symbol of a reborn G.M. after its bailout and trip through bankruptcy court last year.
“We have created the new soul of this company,” said Mark L. Reuss, head of G.M.’s North American operations.
The company’s image received a big boost with its $23.1 billion public stock offering on Nov. 18, which, when completed, will cut the government’s previous 61 percent ownership stake in half.
But G.M. executives are counting on a hot start for the Volt to cement its comeback in the minds of consumers.
The car is the first of its kind to use battery power alone for relatively short drives, and then to augment its range with the assistance of a small gasoline engine that generates electricity.
The Environmental Protection Agency said last week that the Volt had a fuel-economy rating equivalent to 93 miles per gallon on battery power alone. The combined battery-and-engine rating is 60 miles per gallon, the E.P.A. said.
Mr. Akerson said he and his wife had driven a Volt for the last six weeks and had rarely traveled more than the 35 miles per day that the E.P.A. says can be achieved with a full battery charge.
“We’ve gone 450 miles and we’ve used 1.2 gallons of gas,” he said. “I haven’t seen a gas station for six weeks.”
The Volt, which is priced at $41,000, is scheduled to go on sale this month in California, Michigan, Texas, the District of Columbia and the metropolitan New York area. It will become available in the rest of the country by 2012.
G.M. plans to build about 10,000 Volts by the end of next year and 45,000 in 2012.
A version of the car is expected to go on sale next year in Europe as an Opel model.
The Volt faces competition for buyers of electric-powered cars initially from the Nissan Leaf, an all-battery-powered model that the E.P.A. rates at 99 miles per gallon.
Next year, Ford Motor will introduce an all-electric version of its Focus compact car. Like the Volt, the car will be built in Michigan at a factory in the city of Wayne that previously made full-size sport utility vehicles.