GM CEO Mary Barry gets earful from angry Michigan congressional delegation over planned plant, job cuts

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GM CEO Mary Barra speaks to the press after meeting with the delegation from the Michigan Congress at Capitol Hill on Thursday. Photo credit: REUTERS

WASHINGTON – General Motors CEO Mary Barra came under strong criticism from members of the Michigan Congress on Thursday to build a new vehicle in Mexico, while she planned to end production in five North American assembly plants and more than 14,000 jobs to save.

On the second day of meetings on Capitol Hill, Barra faced a difficult session with normally supportive lawmakers from the state where GM is based and has thousands of employees.

Senator Gary Peters, a Democrat from Michigan, wondered why GM launched the production of its new Chevrolet Blazer crossover in Mexico because it was cutting off production in the United States and said the company should take the vehicle to the US moving away

"We have received answers to some of the decisions they made, but I think they need to review that thinking process and understand how important it is to [vehicles] locally, "said Peters. The reason you have excess capacity in the United States is because you have built capacity in Mexico. "

In 2014, GM announced that it would invest $ 5 billion in Mexico in 2018 to modernize and expand its production facilities there. GM says that since 2009 she has invested $ 22 billion in US facilities.

Rep. Sander Levin, a Democrat, said GM pays less than $ 3 per hour at four plants in Mexico, a fraction of what it pays in the United States.

"It was very profitable to leave the United States and go to Mexico," Levin said about the extensive production of pickups and tools in Mexico.

The lawmakers were angry about the lack of coverage before GM's announcement to reduce work last week and wanted guarantees that GM would not close additional US factories.

Barra told reporters after the meetings that it was "important for General Motors to make necessary but incredibly difficult changes."

GM plans to stop production next year at its Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant, as well as at its Warren Transmission plant in Detroit, along with factories in Ohio, Maryland and Canada, and eliminate approximately 8,000 paid positions.

Barra said the decision to build the Blazer in Mexico, which was announced in June, was made "many years ago".

She told Reuters on Wednesday that it would be "very expensive" to reverse the course because the new crossover would launch in a few days. She also noted that GM is launching a number of new vehicles in Michigan next year.

Asked if there were more US facilities to close, Barra GM said: "looked at what steps we had to take to strengthen the company … We think the steps we have taken are what is necessary for our future."

Rep. Tim Walberg, a Republican, said that lawmakers were overwhelmed by job losses and expressed their anger, but added, "nothing was thrown."

Rep. Brenda Lawrence, who represents Detroit, said that lawmakers were setting up. GM was up to date on future production decisions, noting that the company is making strong profits and saving a huge taxpayer a decade ago.

"We look at the decisions they make," Lawrence said.