General Motors assembly team member Jim Clarke uses an Ergo Chair assembly aid while connecting Chevrolet Traverse wire harnesses at Lansing Delta Township Assembly in this 2014 file photo. GM is adding an 800-person shift to that plant and a 400-person shift to the nearby Lansing Grand River Assembly plant. (Photo courtesy of General Motors)

General Motors (GM) is adding a third shift to a Michigan plant that makes crossovers and a second shift to one that makes Cadillac cars.

Lansing Grand River Assembly will add a second shift in general assembly, adding 400 employees to support the launch of the Cadillac CT4 and CT5 sedans. The nearby Lansing Delta Township Assembly plant will add a third shift for Chevrolet Traverse and Buick Enclave crossover production, adding about 800 employees.

Since 2015, GM has invested more than $1 billion into Lansing manufacturing. This includes the $36 million investment at Lansing Delta Township in 2019 for future mid-size SUV production, as well as the $175 million investment at Lansing Grand River in 2018 to modernize tooling and equipment for Cadillac cars.

Both shift additions should be operational in Q2 2020.

Lansing Delta Township Assembly, GM’s newest U.S. plant, has produced more than 3 million vehicles since it opened in 2006. Lansing Grand River Assembly makes the Chevrolet Camaro in addition to Cadillac cars.

Fuel economy hits record, future regulation picture murky

The U.S. vehicle fleet hit 25.1mpg in 2018, a record for overall fuel economy with more reductions expected for 2019, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials announced. However, as the Trump Administration seeks to pull back Obama-era regulations on future fuel economy, the agency downplayed the gain.

“Once again, we see marginal improvements in fuel economy, but they are yet a far cry from the unfeasible Obama Administration’s standards,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler says. “These concerns are top of mind and play a key role in the finalization of our Safe Affordable Fuel Efficient Vehicles (SAFE) rule with the U.S. Department of Transportation, which when finalized will reduce the cost of new vehicles and protect consumer choice.”

The future of SAFE rules is murky at best. Trump announced plans to scrap the Obama-era rules that call for 54.5mpg fuel economy by 2025 (real-world numbers in the 40mpg range after adjusting for credits and other benefits). That policy change requires an economic justification, and Trump’s team produced one last year that claims fuel economy rules would drive vehicle costs higher than consumers could expect in fuel savings and that they would make vehicles unsafe.

But, the EPA’s scientific advisory board, a collection of researchers checking the agency’s factual conclusions, issued a report in late February challenging the basic math underlying the higher costs, lower safety assumptions. The advisory board says Trump’s study assumes that vehicle sales will grow as costs increase.

“The weaknesses (in the justification report’s math) lead to implausible results regarding the overall size of the vehicle fleet, predicting that an increase in vehicle prices due to regulation will cause the fleet to grow substantially when it would usually be expected to shrink,” Science Advisory Board Chairman Michael Honeycutt wrote to Wheeler.

The report, coupled with news that fuel economy is improving, will fuel lawsuits seeking to keep the Obama-era rules in place, making the future of new vehicle efficiency rules hard to predict.