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GM Lordstown plays key role in company’s financial rebirth

Monday, December 16, 2013

With the U.S. Treasury Depart- ment’s sale of the federal government’s shares in General Motors, and the appointment of the first female CEO, the giant automaker is entering a new era with the promise of a bright tomorrow.

An integral part of that future is the company’s Lordstown assembly plant, which is producing the top-selling compact Chevrolet Cruze.

Production of the Cruze began in 2010, after the end of another highly successful compact, the Chevrolet Cobalt. Before the Cobalt, there was the top-selling Chevrolet Cavalier.

The success of the current and past models has not been lost on the executives in GM’s headquarters in Detroit. They have repeatedly voiced their support for the Lordstown assembly facility and have proved that with the investment of billions of dollars in the plant.

Indeed, with the consistently high demand for the Cruze, GM has announced that it will be producing a diesel version of the car, and has also committed to build the next generation of the compact in Lordstown.

But despite the fact that the autoworkers in the Valley have proved that they can make the best cars in the world, the future of the Lords-town plant is not etched in stone.

Hence we believe the Valley’s business, political and community leaders should be proactive in reaching out to GM’s new chief executive officer, Mary Barra. The message from this region should be unequivocal: The Lordstown plant is crucial to the financial well being of the second- largest automobile manufacturer in the world, and the Valley is prepared to do whatever is necessary to keep it that way.

Indeed, the company’s financial comeback is a reflection of the success of its product lines, especially with its compact models.

The government, which at one time owned a 60 percent stake in GM, sold its final shares of stock last week.

We strongly supported the $49.5 billion federal bailout of the giant automaker because bankruptcy would have delivered a crippling blow to the nation’s economy.

Although taxpayers lost about $10 billion in the stock sale, we continue to believe that the cost of GM’s closure would have been many times higher. The Mahoning Valley would have experienced the same kind of economic dislocation that occurred with the collapse of the steel industry.

But a new day has dawned, and the people of this region can breathe a sign of relief.

Company insider

GM’s new CEO, Barra, has been described as a company insider with deep roots in the auto industry. She replaces Dan Akerson, a finance expert, who hastened his departure in order to take care of his wife, Karin, who is battling advanced cancer.

Barra has spent the past three years as GM’s product chief, which means she knows just how much of an asset the Lordstown assembly complex has been to the company in recent years.

We aren’t sure what role she played in the development of the Cruze, but the car has given Americans bragging rights over European and Japanese manufacturers.

It is selling so well that the Lordstown plant is scheduled to add Saturday overtime production in February.

We would suggest that when the new boss contemplates her assignment, she should seek to answer the following question: How can the company build on the strengths of the Lords- town complex and what products should GM assign to the Mahoning Valley?

The record is clear: General Motors has invested a lot of money in the region, and its investment has paid huge dividends.

The new chapter of America’s iconic manufacturing company cannot be written without Lordstown.