2012 Chevrolet Sonic production starts at GM’s Orion Township assembly plant

Article by Christian Andrei, on August 1, 2011

General Motors Co.’s Orion Township assembly plant in suburban Detroit has started production of the Chevrolet Sonic subcompact -- the only subcompact built in the U.S. These cars will start selling this fall. Kenneth Knight, GM executive director of global and North America manufacturing engineering, said during a conference that the launch is “going well” but he didn’t say when Sonic production will be ramped up to full line speed.

He said that Orion has the added challenge of beginning production of the Buick Verano compact in the next several months. The Verano is the sister vehicle of the Chevrolet Cruze that’s built in GM’s Lordstown, Ohio, assembly plant. Knight said that the logistics at Orion are more complex than other GM North American plants.

He explained that a bigger proportion of components are being imported since development of the Sonic’s architecture was conducted in South Korea.

He said that inventory and supply line would be significant factors for GM’s changes planned for the plant. He said that parts manufacturing will be gradually transferred to North America. Knight revealed that GM imports the Sonic’s engines from Mexico and South Korea.

Orion began production with around 1,000 workers but the plan is to reach about 1,800 employees. The transfer of Sonic production to the U.S. became possible due to a unique labor deal with the UAW that calls for 40% of hourly workers to be entry-level Tier 2 workers. They will earn just $14 an hour in wages, about half of the compensation for traditional UAW members.

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