In what some see as an attempt to quell United Auto Workers (UAW) union members' anger over General Motors Corp.'s “Yellowstone” manufacturing plans, the automaker is responding with what amounts to a concession by proposing to import production of the currently German-made Cadillac Catera to Lansing, MI, and build a dedicated assembly plant for such a purpose (see WEVTU — Jan. 15, '99, p.5).

GM already had revealed plans of building one, possibly two new assembly facilities in Lansing to replace the imminent closure of a pair of aging plants that currently build the Oldsmobile Alero and Pontiac Grand Am. The automaker is now saying it plans to build a $350-million facility to manufacture the 2002 Catera and possibly a rear-drive sport/utility vehicle based on the Catera platform.

The fact that GM planned to move production of the Catera to the U.S. was widely known, but many GM suppliers assumed it would join its Cadillac stablemates at GM's Hamtramck, MI, assembly plant. GM reviewed this idea and decided such a move would not allow for the flexibility of manufacture of other Catera-based vehicles. Doing so would put too large a strain on production capabilities of the Hamtramck plant, which already is responsible for producing several other Cadillac models — and none of them rear-drivers.

When GM announced its Yellowstone plans in January, it was met with staunch opposition by the UAW and its leadership. A primary source of contention is GM's plan to hire outside suppliers to perform some assembly processes offsite and deliver the completed modules to the final assembly plant. UAW members naturally view such a move as a threat to union jobs.

But GM's announced plans to build Cateras in Lansing helped smooth out some of the disagreements. The UAW now appears to be willing to allow GM to institute some Yellowstone practices at the proposed Cadillac plant.