United Auto Workers Local 652 will begin discussions this week with General Motors Corp. regarding a $350 million assembly plant the automaker wants to build in Lansing, MI, and possibly operate around the clock making several new vehicles off the Australian-designed Sigma platform.

GM likely will be looking for more flexible work rules, and, sources say, it is considering three shifts at the plant. Sources and a filing with a state government agency indicate annual capacity at 211,000-218,000 units. “They are looking for some integration systems, like Yellowstone. But this is not a Yellowstone plant,” a union source explains, referring to the modular assembly plan GM unveiled earlier this year and hopes to use to replace current small car facilities in Lansing and Lordstown, OH.

Construction could begin in July-September, “assuming a lot of decisions are made,” a GM spokesman confirms. Output reportedly would begin in late 2001.

GM refuses to discuss product details. But the Sigma platform is expected to form the basis for the next-generation Catera, which currently is imported from Germany. GM is losing money on Catera due to shipping costs, a source says. The proposed plant could make a total of three or four Cadillac vehicles, a source says. The Evoq roadster and a '03 model Cadillac crossover vehicle, codenamed GMT265, are possibilities.

The Sigma platform is being engineered by GM's Holden subsidiary in Australia and could form the basis for several other rear-drive cars as well. It has been rumored as a possible platform for everything from a Camaro/Firebird replacement to full-size sedans for Buick and Chevrolet (see Ward's Automotive Reports — Feb. 23, '98, p.1).

Sources say the current Lansing “C” and “M” plants would remain open until 2003-2004. By then, both the Sigma and Yellowstone plants, if approved, would be open.

Meanwhile, the Lansing State Journal reports that GM may move Cadillac Eldorado production from Hamtramck, MI, to the Lansing Craft Centre and end Cavalier/Sunfire convertible conversions there. EV1 output would continue at the Craft Centre, the newspaper says.