GM's Mary Barra vows 'open mind,' makes no promises on plant closings

General Motors Chief Executive Mary Barra came under harsh criticism from members of Congress from MI on Thursday for building a new vehicle in Mexico while ending production at five North American assembly plants and cutting almost 15,000 jobs.

"We hope she heard us", Democratic Rep. Sander Levin, representing Michigan's 9th congressional district, told reporters.

The UAW has objected to GM's plan to end production in 2019 at four USA plants, saying it violates commitments made during contract talks in 2015. "The reason you have excess capacity in the United States is because you've built capacity in Mexico". She was also expected to meet with lawmakers from MI on Thursday, among other meetings.

John Wise, a former GM engineer and now LOCI Chairman, said the automaker's cutbacks stems more from a cultural issue rather than a business or economic decision.

A week after announcing huge job cuts and factory closures that enraged U.S. President Donald Trump, GM's CEO met members of Congress from OH and Maryland on December 5. GM also plans to close its Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant that makes the Chevrolet Impala sedan and Volt plug-in hybrid.

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Barra said the plant's ultimate status will be determined during contract talks next year with the United Auto Workers (UAW) union.

She told Reuters on Wednesday it would be "very costly" to reverse course because the new SUV was launching in days. "I informed the members that many hourly employees at the impacted US plants will have the opportunity to work at other US GM plants and that we are committed to working with them to minimize the impact on the communities. We think the steps we've taken are what's necessary for our future". Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, issued a statement saying that it was important that Barra met with the MI delegation.

Representative Brenda Lawrence, who represents Detroit, said lawmakers were putting GM was on notice about future production decisions, noting the company is making strong profits and got a massive taxpayer bailout a decade ago.

Administration officials later said they wanted to end subsidies for electric cars in 2020 or 2021, affecting GM and other automakers.

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