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Hey Mac What's Up? - Detroit 3 All Rebounding This Time

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By Mac Gordon
Editor at large
Michigan Bureau
The Auto Channel

DETROIT February 23, 2013; With Ford paving the way at its plant hub in northern Ohio, all three domestic automakers announced recovery moves February 22 at their plants in Northern Ohio west of Cleveland.

Past measures to add jobs and step up production schedules have been comfined to GM and Chrysler, but this time each of the domestics has joined in boosting hiring plans in line with increased sales.

Ford's plants in the Buckeye state were in the forefront. Just as the Cleveland Auto Show was gathering momentum, Ford said it is adding 450 jobs at the Cleveland plant as part of a $200 million renovation. This plant builds Ford's highly-touted turbo Eco-Boost engines, which power Fusion and Fiesta cars and Explorer SUVs.

“These 2-liter engines are key to our strategy for increasing MPG averages across the fleet,” said Ford Americas chief Joe Hinrichs. “Cleveland has been a cog in our powerplant wheel for years and years.” This plant employs 1,300 workers.

The “comebacks” also include GM and Chrysler. GM has uncovered expansion plans for one of its plant hubs-Kansas City, KS. GM will invest $600 million in its KC assembly plant, a longtime center for building its midsize cars and SUVs.

And Chrysler, under guidance from its CEO Sergio Marchionne, is adding a third shift at its Jeep plants in Detroit and Toledo.

The Jeep brand has been central to Chrysler's expansion in hiring and production in Michigan and Ontario.

Third-shifting brings into play the lower $16 an hour start-up wages for new workers, agreed to by the UAW and CAW unions during the bankruptcies that struck the Detroit-3 (currently the wage for veteran workers is about $28-$30 an hour.)

Detroit-3 plants almost all were scheduling overtime work throughout February-a sign of unrelenting demand for such models as Chrysler's Dodge Dart, Town & Country and Grand Caravans, Ram trucks and Jeeps; and trucks and SUVs from GM and Ford.

Only three plants were closed the week of February 23-Chrysler-Jeep Toledo; Ford SUV-Kansas City and GM-Buick Lansing. Each of the Big Three are aligning production schedules this spring with their inventories.