For U.S. automakers, 2011 was a comeback year. General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group not only sold more vehicles than they did in the previous year, they also continued to add jobs, contributing to a revival in manufacturing within an industry that was but given up for lost.
The latest job-creation announcement came Tuesday from GM, which said it plans to expand operations in Arlington, Texas, adding a parts plant and about 180 jobs when construction of the new wing is complete next year.
Of course, it isn't only domestic carmakers that are adding factory jobs. Japan's Toyota Motor Corp., which GM supplanted last year as the world's largest vehicle manufacturer, and Germany's Volkswagen AG are also adding hundreds of jobs to their American factories.
Toyota said Tuesday that it plans to open a $350 million parts plant in northeast Georgia that will create 320 jobs when it's completed in late 2013. The announcement follows news last month that German parts-maker Erdrich Umformtechnik GmbH & Co. is to open a plant in the southeast part of the state, creating 178 jobs, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
Meanwhile, Volkswagen, which opened a plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., last April to build a U.S. version of its midsize Passat sedan, said Tuesday that it plans to add 200 full-time jobs in a bid to boost production capacity by 13 percent at the site.
The additions will bring to more than 2,700 the number of workers employed at the plant, which currently runs two shifts, according to The Detroit News.
All three announcements came on the same day that President Obama touted his administration's success in helping turn around the once-moribund U.S. auto industry. Speaking at the Washington Auto Show in the nation's capital, Obama said the controversial bailouts he backed shortly after he became president have made American automakers viable once again.
"[W]e are now back in a place where we can compete with any car company in the world." Obama said. "And these are not only selling here in the United States, they also serve as a platform for us to sell product all around the world."
Critics of the federal bailouts of GM and Chrysler have said the government had no business using taxpayer money to extend a lifeline to the companies. They include Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, who predicted four years ago that a government-backed bailout would only forestall their bankruptcy.
More recently, at a GOP presidential debate in Michigan in November, Romney said bailing out the auto industry "was the wrong way to go."
U.S. workers -- including those whose jobs were saved or created as a result the bailouts -- might have the final say in November on who was right.
See President Obama at the Washington Auto Show:
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