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GM Plans at Least $1 Billion in Fresh U.S. Investment

The Wall Street Journal. logo The Wall Street Journal. 1/17/2017 Mike Colias

© Cesar Rodriguez/Bloomberg News General Motors Co. this week will announce plans to invest at least $1 billion across several U.S. factories, two people familiar with the plan said, a move aimed at underlining its commitment to U.S. manufacturing jobs in the wake of President-elect Donald Trump’s criticism of the auto maker’s imports from Mexico.

GM’s announcement could come as early as Tuesday, the people briefed on the plan said. The company will cite a number of new jobs in excess of 1,000 stemming from the investment but doesn’t plan to specify which of its factories are in line for more work, one person said.

A GM spokesman declined to comment. The Trump transition team didn’t immediately return a request for comment.

The move comes days after Mr. Trump publicly ratcheted up pressure on the nation’s largest auto maker. During his press conference last week, the president-elect thanked Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles for recently announced U.S. investment plans that are expected to create a combined 2,700 jobs. He then turned up the heat on GM to follow suit.

“I hope that General Motors will be following. And I think they will be,” Mr. Trump said.

In an interview Monday, GM general counsel Craig Glidden declined to confirm specifics of the announcement but said any investment the company might disclose has been long planned and isn’t a response to pressure from Mr. Trump.

“This is something we’ve been undertaking for some period of time,” he said. “It’s really getting our story told in a way that is I think complete and fulsome.”

In the interview, Mr. Glidden said GM has added 25,000 jobs over the last four years. Of those, just 6,000 were factory workers—the type of jobs Mr. Trump typically references in his comments on trade—and the rest were engineering, information technology and other white-collar jobs. About 15,000 of those were shifted from overseas, he said.

“There is a bigger story here that relates to employment in the United States,” Mr. Glidden said. As the auto industry pursues self-driving cars and other new realms of mobility, “those will be areas that continue to be centered here in the United States and areas of further employment.”

GM’s announcement would follow a familiar pattern of auto makers publicly outlining U.S. investment and job-creation plans in the wake of Mr. Trump’s criticism of imports while insisting they would have moved ahead with them anyway.

Ford on Jan. 3 said it scrapped plans for a $1.6 billion plant in Mexico that had been the subject of frequent criticism from Mr. Trump. Ford Chief Executive Mark Fields said the decision stemmed from sagging small-car demand in the U.S., but also called it a “vote of confidence” in Mr. Trump’s economic policies.

FCA and Toyota Motor Corp., which also had its Mexican production plans criticized by the president-elect, each in recent weeks have highlighted plans for significant investment in U.S. factories.

GM’s announcement comes ahead of more than 3,000 layoffs it plans starting this month across U.S. factories. The job cuts include about 1,200 workers at its Lordstown, Ohio, plant, which makes the compact Chevrolet Cruze. Mr. Trump criticized GM in a Jan. 3 Twitter message for importing some Cruzes from Mexico.

It’s unclear whether the investment GM plans to disclose this week eventually will include more work for the Lordstown facility.

Mr. Glidden confirmed that Ms. Barra spoke with Mr. Trump early this month following his tweet, which said companies that import from Mexico should pay a “big border tax.” Mr. Glidden, who was briefed on the conversation, said the two discussed trade policy and GM’s “commitment to competitive manufacturing in the U.S.”

He said Mr. Trump also “seemed interested” in whether there are regulatory reforms that could benefit auto makers.

Write to Mike Colias at Mike.Colias@wsj.com

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