Planet Gore

A Tale of Two Auto Plants

Detroit — What’s the car of the future?

The government says it’s the electric car and last week its surrogate, Tesla Motors, announced that it will be producing its $50,000 battery-powered sedan, the Model S, in the ex-NUMMI plant (an expired Toyota-GM-UAW joint facility) in California. Tesla will be using a $500 million federal loan to hire 1,000 workers to build the luxury vehicle.

Meanwhile, the American customer wants SUVs — as evidenced by Chrysler’s announcement last week that it was investing $700 million in its Detroit Jefferson North Assembly plant to build the new, V6-powered 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee. The plant will be adding a second shift — 1,100 workers — to produce the $35,000 vehicle because “initial orders are 30-40 percent higher than initial expectations,” said a Jeep spokesman at a public ceremony unveiling the latest Jeep.

Like her DC allies, ultra-green Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm has declared battery power the future. But it was Granholm in the passenger seat Friday when Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne drove the Jeep on stage and hailed the 20 mpg sport ute as “the rebirth of the Chrysler Group.”

Henry Payne — Henry Payne is the auto critic for the Detroit News.

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