UAW suggests GM build police cars at aging Lansing plant
Union contends proposal could save LCA jobs
By Barbara Wieland
Lansing State Journal
A union proposal to build cop cars at Lansing Car Assembly could arrest job losses at the plant.
Representatives of United Auto Workers Locals 602 and 652 made a pitch to build police cruisers earlier this month. Officials at General Motors Corp. haven't yet decided whether to accept the proposal.
"We've got the capacity. We've got the people," said Jim DooLittle, vice president of UAW Local 652.
If the proposal is accepted, it could save jobs at the aging car assembly plant. GM warned last month that 1,500 people could lose work there next week.
Bolstering the proposal, DooLittle added, is the fact that police departments are looking for a better cruiser.
Many police departments use the Ford Crown Victoria in their cruiser fleets. Those cars in February became the subject of a new National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigation after police departments complained of rear-wheel assembly problems.
The agency in 2002 closed an investigation into the deaths of a dozen police officers who died when the Crown Victorias' fuel tanks exploded, finding the car did not have a defect.
The controversy continues, however. Last week, Ford Motor Co. settled a lawsuit with the family of a police officer who died in a fiery crash.
"Police departments are looking for a larger, rear-wheel-drive car that has engine performance," DooLittle said.
Two GM cars could fit that bill, union officials said.
One of them, the Chevrolet Caprice, already has been used in police fleets. It was considered the cruiser of choice by many police officers, but went out of production in the United States in 1995, said Mike Braun, product development coordinator for UAW Local 652. The car is still made in Australia.
"The cops loved them. They were rebuilding our cars rather than using the Crown Victoria," Braun said.
Rumors that GM may bring back the Caprice in the United States have surfaced. A story in Canada's Ottawa Citizen published May 7 said GM might produce the Caprice Royale, a souped-up, V-8 version of the sedan.
Another cop-car candidate is an Australian-made GM vehicle that is being redesigned.
Like the Caprice Royale, the Holden Commodore is a large, rear-wheel-drive car with a V-8 engine and four doors. It sells for about $30,000 Australian, or $20,000 in U.S. currency, Braun said.
Art Luna, president of UAW Local 602, said he'd like to see the current version of the Commodore made in Lansing. It will be redesigned in 2006.
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