Reporting Jeff Gilbert
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LAKE ORION (WWJ) - President Barack Obama and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak celebrated a new trade deal between their two countries at the General Motors Orion Assembly Plant.
WWJ’s Jeff Gilbert reported the presidents spoke Friday afternoon from an auto plant that almost closed a few years ago — saved by an innovative agreement between GM and the UAW that allows the company to build the small sub-compact Chevy Sonic at a cost where it can still make money.
The Sonic used to be made in South Korea as the Chevy Aveo. Now they design it, it’s built in Lake Orion, and the president was able to point to it as an example of two countries working together.
Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and Governor Rick Snyder also toured the plant with the leaders at the GM plant, accompanied by GM CEO Dan Akerson and officials of the UAW.
When the two leaders walked in, Obama joked about the fact the South Korean president was wearing a Tigers baseball cap. Obama said as a White Sox fan he couldn’t wear a Tigers hat.
The two leaders made several stops along the assembly line, shaking hands with workers and learning more about the production of Sonic — which started production earlier this year in China and Korea.
When a worker told Lee a Sonic built in the U.S. has 27 percent Korean content, Obama joked: “I’m giving you some business.” It was also noted that the vehicle has 440 Korean made parts from 54 Korean suppliers.
Dan Leetch, a GM supply chain official, told reporters GM hit full production speed for Sonic in the last week — 542 vehicles a day — and the plant will hit 825 per day by year’s end.
Obama patted workers on the back and said: “Good job. I’m proud of you. Keep up the good work.” Larry Campbell, a 15-year GM worker from Rochester Hills, thanked Obama for “believing” in GM.