DETROIT – General Motors Corp. will spend about $100 million to renovate its Wilmington, DE, assembly plant to prepare the facility for ’06 Pontiac Solstice production next year.
Pontiac Solstice will be built at Wilmington, DE, plant.

The plant also plans to add jobs when more new vehicles are assigned to Wilmington.

Mark Hogan, GM’s product development chief, tells Ward’s here at the North American International Auto Show, “We’ll start working tomorrow” on overhauling the Wilmington plant for Solstice output.(See related story: RWD Makes Comeback at GM)

Wilmington currently operates only one shift to assemble the Saturn L-Series midsize car. Although Hogan declines to confirm it, the L-Series will be dropped from GM’s lineup. “We haven’t made that call yet,” he says.

Solstice is the first vehicle built off of GM’s all-new Kappa rear-wheel-drive small-car platform. Other derivatives are expected. GM showed the Kappa-based Saturn Curve and Chevy Nomad concepts alongside Solstice here at Cobo Hall.

“(Solstice) will be good for only one shift, but we have derivatives,” Hogan says. “Our intent is to fully utilize that plant.”

Hogan says GM needs to sell only 20,000 Solstice models annually to be profitable. The auto maker intends to price Solstice for less than $20,000.

“There may be one or two” other vehicles built off of the Kappa platform that have significantly higher annual volumes, Hogan reveals.

GM’s investment in Wilmington goes against the industry trend away from East Coast assembly plants.

“Our experience with that workforce has been pretty good,” says GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner. “It’s been a good workforce over the years. I thought it was great that the chairman and president of the (United Auto Workers union) local could be here with us.

“That community has really gotten behind that facility,” he adds, “and there’s not that much auto production on the East Coast anymore. So we really appreciate that.”

bcorbett@primediabusiness.com