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SPRING HILL, Tenn. - It's back to work Monday for 2,400 workers at General Motors Corp.'s former Saturn auto plant who have been on furlough since last spring.

There's also a chance that success in Spring Hill could mean it's back to work for GM workers in the Lansing area.

For now, the Tennessee workers will return to the facility for three weeks for training and job selection, GM and United Auto Workers officials said.

The work force will return by late June to begin building the 2009 Chevrolet Traverse crossover utility vehicle that goes on sale in the fall, they said.

If the vehicle proves to be a runaway hit, Detroit-based GM could send overflow production to its assembly plant in Delta Township. The Traverse is built on the Lambda platform, which also is used on the GMC Acadia, Buick Enclave and Saturn Outlook made in Delta Township. All four crossovers are in the same family of vehicles.

The Spring Hill vehicle assembly plant was closed for a $700 million overhaul in March 2006, when production of the Saturn Ion compact car and Vue compact sport utility vehicle ended at that plant.

About 1,200 workers stayed on their jobs in other areas of the plant, making engines for five other GM vehicles and replacement body parts for Saturns. Meanwhile, the former Saturn assembly area and paint shop were gutted and rebuilt in preparation for the Traverse, plant spokeswoman Kate Neary said.

Chevrolet will unveil the Traverse on Wednesday at the Chicago Auto Show.

Automotive analyst Erich Merkle, lead forecaster at research firm IRN Inc. in Grand Rapids, thinks Chevrolet could sell 150,000 Traverses a year. At that rate, GM might need to take action to increase production capacity. "They would need to add another shift," he said. "But would that shift be in Spring Hill or would it be in Delta Township? It's hard to say." A third shift in Delta Township was canceled in December, putting about 1,000 people at GM and hundreds more at area auto suppliers out of work.

Source: http://www.lsj.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080201/NEWS03/802010313/1004/news03
 

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