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GM pickups drive suppliers to add jobs, facilities


Within sight of General Motors’ Wentzville assembly plant, 180 newly hired employees at another manufacturing facility make the seats for the redesigned Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon pickups that began production this fall.

Since September, auto parts giant Faurecia has been making the seats at its new facility on Edinger Road in Wentzville. The facility is the French company’s 47th production plant in North America.

With existing Missouri facilities in Riverside and Dexter, Faurecia now employs 1,070 in the state.

When GM goes to three shifts early next year, Faurecia will too, and add at least 50 more jobs, Nik Endrud, president of Faurecia Automotive Seating North America, said at a Wednesday afternoon press event at the plant.

Across Missouri and Illinois, the ripple effect of bringing production of the Colorado and Canyon pickups to Wentzville has meant more jobs in the automotive sector at auto parts suppliers. The pickups that were redesigned this year were previously made in Louisiana.

Faurecia is a “just-in-time” plant, a production strategy that puts suppliers as close as possible to the original equipment manufacturer, or OEM, which in this case is GM. Within four hours of GM notifying Faurecia of the need for a specific seat type — such as black leather or brown cloth — it’s on GM’s assembly line.

“These seats go just across the road, right when they need it,” Endrud said.

Faurecia is one of about 300 suppliers GM contracts with to make the nearly 3,000 parts for the Wentzville-made pickups.

Since GM began producing the midsize pickups this fall, about 10 automotive suppliers in Missouri began to supply glass, wheels, and acoustic and battery components that end up on the assembly line in Wentzville, according to a supplier list that GM provided to the Post-Dispatch.

In addition to Faurecia, the local suppliers for the pickups include tool-and-die maker Wainwright Enterprises in St. Peters, Pittsburgh Glass Works in O’Fallon, Mo., and Ground Effects Ltd., a supplier in Wentzville that sprays bedliners in the pickups.

Elsewhere in Missouri, automotive suppliers making parts for the Colorado and Canyon include Janesville Acoustics, Johnson Controls, Nitto Denko Corp., Sika Corp., Yanfeng USA and Maxion Wheels.

Engineered Plastic Components in Columbia, Mo., which makes heating, ventilating, and air conditioning equipment, hired 40 additional people this year for the Colorado and Canyons, said Amanda Lake, program manager for the company’s GM HVAC contract.

The new hires bring the facility, which also makes parts for Mitsubishi and Whirlpool, up to 125 employees.

“We hired 20 people for the first shift and 20 people for the second shift,” Lake said.

Most of GM’s suppliers in Illinois are in the Chicago area, but a few are in Southern Illinois, including Nascote Industries in Nashville and Hella Electronics Corp. in Flora.

After GM announced in 2011 that it planned to start building the pickups in Wentzville, employment at the assembly plant that also makes Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana full-size van grew from 1,400 to 2,600 employees this year.

Next year, for the first time in the plant’s history, GM will run three shifts, bringing employment at the plant that opened in 1983 to 3,350.

The jobs are a boost to the St. Louis region’s battered automotive industry after the closure of local Chrysler and Ford assembly plants in the last decade, which resulted in thousands of lost jobs.

State economic development officials are seeking to attract more automotive jobs to Missouri and will be attending the North American International Auto Show in Detroit next month as in previous years to talk with auto industry executives, Missouri’s Department of Economic Development Director Mike Downing told the Post-Dispatch.

“We have been in the process of trying to attract other facilities,” Downing said. “OEM jobs have a ripple effect on the economy, and supplier jobs are good paying jobs too.”

Missouri automotive sector jobs at assembly plants and parts manufacturing facilities will rise to 13,959 next year, nearly doubling in three years due to investments by GM in Wentzville and Ford in Claycomo, Mo., according to an economic impact report released this fall by the Missouri Economic Research & Information Center. That’s down from a peak of more than 20,080 workers in 1996.

More job gains at GM’s assembly plant and at suppliers will depend on how well the Colorado and Canyon pickups sell. For all vehicles, GM increased deliveries to U.S. dealerships in November by 6 percent, its best November in seven years. Dealers delivered 2,366 Colorado pickups and 854 Canyon pickups in November, which is ahead of projections, according to GM.

The pickups made in Wentzville also have received industry honors since their debut. This month, the Colorado was named 2015 “Truck of the Year” by Motor Trend magazine, and Autoweek magazine named the Canyon “Best of the Best” truck for 2015.

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Lisa Brown is Business Editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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