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Crossover: Chevy coming to Saturn birthplace

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SPRING HILL — GM/Spring Hill Manufacturing employees heard the words they have been waiting for at a closed-door meeting Thursday.

General Motors head of negotiations Troy Clark told a private gathering of about 2,000 employees that following the plant’s retooling, they would be building Chevrolet’s new 2008 crossover vehicle. To help employees visualize the as-yet unnamed product, officials brought in both a Saturn Outlook and GMC Acadia.

The announcement came as the plant’s last Saturn Vue rolled off the assembly line. Employees were told the announcement was for their ears only, and that an official public announcement would be forthcoming later this year. The Daily Herald reported online Wednesday and in Thursday’s edition that the Chevy crossover announcement was forthcoming.

“We’ll invite the governor and have coffee and cake and do it all over again for the public,” Clark told those in attendance, according to a union member who was present but asked not to be identified.

Gov. Phil Bredesen was unable to be at the plant for Thursday’s announcement because of previous commitments in West Tennessee. The governor released a written statement congratulating Spring Hill employees, however.

“I am pleased by General Motors’ decision to make this significant investment in the future of the Spring Hill plant and its Tennessee employees. My administration is committed to working with GM, its UAW partners and the local community to make sure Spring Hill’s employees have the skills necessary to compete in a global marketplace,” he said. “I’m convinced Spring Hill’s strong reputation for quality, productivity and efficiency will play an important role in GM’s future.”

The complete retooling of the Spring Hill plant is expected to represent a billion dollar investment on the part of General Motors. In December, GM announced it would invest $225 million in the plant’s paint shop as the first step in the conversion process.

The complete revamp will include new technology with the flexibility to produce virtually any GM vehicle the public demands. The crossover vehicle to be produced next year has been described as a 21st century family station wagon, energy efficient and with room for six passengers.

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