GM, Chrysler Each Set to Add 1,000 Engineering Jobs
By Chris Haak
GM and Chrysler – yes, the same two companies that shed tens of thousands of white-collar and production employees over the past few years as both firms stumbled into bankruptcy in 2009 – announced separately today that they plan to hire a considerable number of engineers. Most of the new jobs will be located in Michigan, where it seems likely that there is a large number of out-of-work, qualified engineers with automotive experience ready to start working again on a moment’s notice.
For Chrysler, which saw its US-based employment fall from 64,750 in 2006 to just 32,250 in June 2009, the new hires will come in large part from stepped-up campus recruiting efforts at 35 schools, but the company also wants to hire a mix of new grads and experienced hires. Since exiting bankruptcy in June 2009, the company has already hired some 5,000 workers, of whom at least 500 are engineers. Of the 1,000 projected new hires, about 600 will actually be on Chrysler’s payroll, and 400 will likely be contract employees. Chrysler expects to fill the openings within the next four months.
The new Chrysler engineers will be assigned to small and midsize car development, which is obviously an area in which Chrysler needs to bolster its resources in order to become and eventually remain competitive with the class leaders. The refreshed 2011 Chrysler 200 sedan (formerly the Sebring) seems to be a step in the right direction, and is an extensive mid-cycle enhancement, but Chrysler needs a moonshot or two in order to gain solid consumer interest like the company had a decade and a half ago.
Across town, GM expects to hire 1,000 engineers and researchers to work on development of EVs and hybrids, such as the Chevrolet Volt. Unlike the short timeframe in which Chrysler plans to execute its hiring, GM’s hiring will occur over the next two years. According to GM CEO Dan Akerson, over the next 10 years, every vehicle in GM’s lineup will boast electrification in some form. That means that every vehicle in GM’s lineup will be either an EV, hybrid, or at least have some sort of electric motor assist, like the LaCrosse’s eAssist. If one really wants to stretch the definition of ‘electrification,’ start-stop systems might also count.
Part of GM’s push for more EV-type engineers is that the company would like to double, or even triple, production of the Volt. Making more $41,000 cars that cost (according to former “Car Czar” Steve Rattner’s book) $40,000 each, excluding the car’s significant development costs is not really the most shrewd fiscal decision that GM could make. However, hiring an army of engineers to refine, simplify, improve, and cost-reduce the Volt to the point that it can be sold profitably at a lower price would be a great idea.
CEO Akerson also told reporters at an event to mark the shipment of the first 200 Volts for retail sale – which happened to be already-sold cars headed for California – that the Volt would be exported beginning late next year. He was not specific as to which countries would receive the Volt (or its rebadged cousin, the Opel Ampera), but in Europe it will be sold as the Chevrolet Volt and the Opel Ampera, and in Australia will be sold as the Chevrolet Volt.
Incidentally, GM’s 2007 US employment was 139,000, and was as low as 102,000 at the end of 2009. As of June 2010, it stood at around 105,000 people. Though Michigan’s economy is still in terrible shape, I’m sure that the folks of the Great Lakes State are happy to see some positive news on the employment front for a change. And frankly, we’re excited to see more researchers and engineers, which should only mean that future products will be even better than those on the market today.