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General Motors says to invest additional $1 billion in U.S.

By David Shepardson

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - General Motors Co <GM.N> on Tuesday confirmed it will invest an additional $1 billion in its U.S. factories in 2017 and will move some parts production from Mexico to the United States that was previously handled by a supplier.

The investments are in addition to the $2.9 billion the automaker announced last year, GM said. (http://bit.ly/2iJ9xw0)

GM and other automakers have been sharply criticized by Republican U.S. President-elect Donald Trump for building vehicles in Mexico that are imported into the United States. Trump will be sworn in on Friday.

GM said the $1 billion investment will create or retain 1,500 jobs. The Detroit automaker said details of individual projects will be announced throughout the year.

"Thank you to General Motors and Walmart for starting the big jobs push back into the U.S.," Trump tweeted, referring as well to Wal-Mart Stores Inc's <WMT.N> announcement that it will hire 10,000 U.S. workers in 2017 as part of a plan previously announced by the discount retailer.

GM also said it will begin work on bringing axle production for its next generation of full-size pickup trucks, including work previously done in Mexico, to operations in Michigan, creating 450 U.S. jobs.

The part was previously built by American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc <AXL.N>. American Axle did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

GM spokeswoman Joanne Krell said the automaker planned to add 7,000 new U.S. jobs over the next two to three years. Krell said the decisions being announced "had been in the works for some time" but she added "the timing was good for us to share what we are doing."

The 7,000 figure includes the 450 jobs on axle production, 1,500 jobs tied to the $1 billion announcement and more than 5,000 new jobs tied to engineering, GM Financial and advanced technology.

GM in 2014 announced it was investing $5 billion in Mexico and doubling production capacity by 2018. GM said last week it had no plans to cancel Mexican investments despite Trump pressure.

GM said it had added about 6,000 U.S. jobs, consisting of 4,000 hourly and 2,000 salaried positions, since the end of 2015 for a total American workforce of 103,000.

Since GM's bankruptcy restructuring in 2009, when it had 77,000 U.S. employees, it has added more than 25,000 jobs as it boosted production, acquired an auto finance company and brought information technology work in house.

The United Auto Workers union said GM's new investments "have emerged as a result of the 2015" contract with the union.

GM shares slightly rose in midday trading, up 0.6 percent, or $0.23 per share, to $37.57.

'BIG STUFF'

Trump, who made bringing back manufacturing to the United States a large part of his successful election campaign, has been touting recent automaker investments in the United States.

"With all of the jobs I am bringing back into the U.S. (even before taking office), with all of the new auto plants coming back into our country and with the massive cost reductions I have negotiated on military purchases and more, I believe the people are seeing "big stuff," Trump said in a pair of tweets.

Trump has been inaccurate in describing some U.S. auto investments, wrongly saying last week that Fiat Chrysler <FCAU.N> <FCHA.MI> was planning to build a new factory in the United States. The company announced it is investing $1 billion in two existing plants, adding 2,000 jobs.

On Jan. 3, Trump threatened to impose a "big border tax" on GM for making some of its Chevrolet Cruze compacts in Mexico - and he has extended that threat to German automakers like BMW AG <BMWG.DE> and Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T> over building vehicles abroad.

Separately, Hyundai Motor Group said Tuesday in South Korea that it plans to boost U.S. investment by 50 percent to $3.1 billion over five years and may build a new plant in the United States.

Hyundai Motor Co <005380.KS> and Kia Motors Corp <000270.KS>, which make up the Hyundai Motor Group, have not been directly criticized by Trump but they may have felt vulnerable because among major brands, they have one of the lowest ratios of cars built in the United States to cars sold.

GM also said an unnamed supplier has committed to make components for GM’s next-generation full-size pickup trucks in Michigan, moving 100 supplier jobs from Mexico to the United States.

But even as GM invests in U.S. plants, it has also been making job cuts. In recent months, the company announced plans to lay off about 3,300 employees at three factories.

It said in November it would cut about 2,000 jobs when it ends the third shift at its Lordstown, Ohio, and Lansing, Michigan, plants in January. Last month, it said it planned to cancel the second shift and cut nearly 1,300 jobs from its Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant in March.

GM's "general plan is to build where we sell, and we're focused on what we're doing in the United States," Chief Executive Mary Barra said in an interview with Reuters on Monday.

Barra, who said she planned to attend Trump's inauguration, said GM wants to work with him, adding, "I do believe we have more in common than we have areas that we aren't aligned."

(Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington and Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru; Editing by Frances Kerry and Jonathan Oatis)