Rumors Swirl as GM Announces Tenn. Plant Expansion

Ah, rumors. The auto industry has its share of them, largely fed by the vague remarks of corporate managers and automotive journalists that attempt to parse that information.

Rumors have been swirling for the past week ever since GM announced that it was investing an additional $167 million into its Spring Hill, Tenn., manufacturing plant, bringing its total pledge for the two projects to $350 million. The investment will result in the retention or creation of up to 1,800 jobs at a facility that was opened in 1990.

Saturn Manufacturing Plant

Map of Tennessee highlighting Williamson County
Map of Tenn. highlighting Williamson Co., location of GM’s Spring Hill plant (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Spring Hill was at one time operated solely as the assembly plant for the Saturn company, a brand that GM dissolved 2010. Saturn was originally marketed as a “different kind of car company,” before it eventually was pulled into the GM fold. Saturn, along with Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Saab and Hummer are no more, but the Spring Hill plant has survived.

That plant currently builds the Chevrolet Equinox and the GMC Terrain, five-passenger crossover utility vehicles that have sold well for GM. Both models offer four and six-cylinder engines and are sold in front- and all-wheel-drive configurations. Updates for each are due in about two years.

GM Midsize Vehicles Planned

Both investments are for mid-size vehicles, but GM has declined to identify what these vehicles are. Instead, the company says that the “timing and product specifications for both programs will be shared closer to start-of-production.” Typically vague, but that’s more information than what many of its competitors routinely serve up.

Naturally, the lack of concrete information has spawned rumors including the possibility that GM would bring the Chevrolet TrailBlazer, an SUV it builds for other markets, to the US. That vehicle shares the same platform as the upcoming Chevrolet Colorado, but GM has said that it has no intention of bringing it to the US.

Buick and Cadillac Products?

Instead, Auto Trends believes that the vehicles that will be built in Spring Hill will fill holes in Buick’s and Cadillac’s line ups. Buick has the small Encore and the larger Enclave in its crossover arsenal and needs to have a mid-size model to fill that hole.

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Cadillac, too, has some product gaps with its SRX crossover and Escalade SUV its current SUV offerings. The Cadillac could be based on the Buick’s platform with unique sheetmetal for the luxury model. In any case, Cadillac is due for two models to fill the hole between SRX and Escalade with perhaps an Enclave-derived model entering the line up at some point too. On a side note, Cadillac is due for 10 new or updated models over the next two years.

Flex Assembly Line

Spring Hill offers some advantages that other GM plants do not have. Besides being relatively new, its flexible assembly line makes it possible to build a variety of vehicles on it for a range of platforms. Its both an innovative and cost-saving change that manufacturers have been rushing to adopt in recent years in a bid to contain costs and to adjust quickly as consumer demand shifts. Yes, Japanese manufacturers have been doing this for years and Volkswagen is also another proponent.

Pouring more money into domestic manufacturing reflects positively on General Motors and is in line with what the Ford Motor Company and the Chrysler Group are doing as well. Tennessee is outside of the rust belt area too, a location that makes it possible for GM to expand further if it desires to do so down the line. That expansion will no doubt have much to do with the company’s market share, with a larger slice necessitating additional build capacity.

See Also – GM to Reopen Shuttered Spring Hill Plant

Author: Matthew Keegan
Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.

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