General Motors today announced a $2 billion expansion of its domestic auto making operations, which will result in the creation or retention of 4,000 jobs spread across 17 facilities in eight states.
GM Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson revealed the plans at a transmission plant in Toledo, Ohio. He was not specific about where the new jobs would be added, but local union officials say the Toledo site would add 250 to 400 workers.
Most of the 4,000 jobs -- as many as 3,000 -- will be new hires while the rest will be the preservation of workers who faced layoffs, a company spokesman said.
"We are doing this because we are confident about demand for our vehicles and the economy," Akerson said in a statement. "This new investment is on top of $3.4 billion and more than 9,000 jobs that GM has added or saved since mid-2009."
The announcement was another positive marker on GM's road to recovery since emerging from bankruptcy almost two years ago. Its April sales figures were up 26 percent from last year's and GM's first quarter earnings tripled those from 2010.
GM is taking advantage of "an historic opportunity," said Jeremy Anwyl, CEO of car-buying website Edmunds.com.
With the supply of Japanese cars disrupted by the earthquake there and high gas prices here, he said, "people are reconsidering the cars they'd think about."
The company sold more than 25,000 Chevrolet Cruze compacts in April, the best month for the fuel efficient car (26 mpg in city driving, 36 mpg on the highway) since it was introduced in October. Small SUV's like the Equinox and GMC Terrain also posted big April sales increases.
And GM plans to ramp up production of its highly acclaimed electric Volt. The company built only 1,700 in the first four months of 2011 but 15,000 will roll off production lines by year's end.
Anwyl said he believes the demand for the company's fuel efficient, smaller cars will allow it to reduce incentives and make more profit heading into the summer. He estimates that the company could earn another $2 billion in profits for the second quarter of 2011.
The announcement today not only shows off GM's resurgent production of cars but its production of jobs, perhaps a far more meaningful barometer to taxpayers who helped rescue the company with a $49.5 billion bailout. While in bankruptcy, the company closed a dozen factories.
"This announcement is good PR" Katie Kerwin of Auto Beat Daily said. "It is important for GM to show they can repay the government, that taxpayers weren't just pouring money down a rathole."
To the extent that this is helpful PR, GM clearly intends for the payoff to last. By not releasing specifics today about which plants will be upgraded or expanding, it will reap the benefit of good publicity over time as plants in various localities are upgraded and add workers.
ABC News' Michael Murray contributed to this report.