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updated 5/10/2011 5:26:56 PM ET 2011-05-10T21:26:56

General Motors is putting out help wanted signs.

GM said Tuesday that it will add or keep 4,000 jobs in the U.S. by hiring new employees or calling back furloughed workers over the next year and a half. It's the latest sign that that the company and U.S. car industry are recovering from a sales slump and bankruptcies.

"Those jobs impact and reverberate in our economy," said GM CEO Dan Akerson, who spoke at a transmission plant in Toledo, where up to 400 new workers will be hired or retained.

GM will spend $2 billion at 17 plants in eight states to create the new work. Most of the investment will be in the Midwest. Beyond that, few details were released about where the jobs will land.

It's also not clear how many of the positions will be new hires. Many will be existing jobs retained with the introduction of new cars and trucks. The automaker will announce over the next few months which plants are getting new investments.

GM spokeswoman Kimberly Carpenter said the company has about 1,300 laid off workers waiting to be recalled in the U.S. GM expects to recall all of them by the end of the year and already is adding workers at factories in Flint, Mich., Orion Township, Mich., and Delta Township, Mich., near Lansing, she said.

The news is sure to boost GM's image after it came under fire for taking a $50 billion government bailout.

All the jobs will be in addition to 9,500 created or retained since GM left bankruptcy protection in 2009.

Akerson said he's confident about the economy and demand for new cars, especially fuel-efficient models that have helped GM's sales. General Motors Co. reported its best profit in more than a decade last week, earning $3.2 billion in the first quarter.

GM also plans to invest in factories outside the U.S. to meet increased demand, Akerson said, but he would give no details.

"Our cars are selling well," he said. "We seem to have hit a sweet spot."

In Toledo, workers wearing red T-shirts saying "Support us We support you" stood and cheered when Akerson said GM will build a new eight-speed transmission at the plant.

The new transmissions will not replace the six-speed ones that the factory already makes for more than a dozen models, including the Chevrolet Corvette and Camaro and the Cadillac Escalade.

For Brad Cowell, 20, of Toledo, the timing couldn't be better. He's a temporary worker at the plant who was just called back from layoff this week to build transmissions for the fast selling Chevrolet Cruze compact.

The chance to stay on full-time will make him work harder, he said.

GM would not reveal which vehicle will get the new eight-speed transmissions that are designed to increase gas mileage by shifting into the most efficient gear.

Any new hires will be paid GM's entry-level wage of $14 per hour, about half the wages of a veteran union autoworker. The United Auto Workers agreed to the lower wages in contract concessions when GM was headed toward bankruptcy protection two years ago.

In contract talks this summer, the UAW will ask GM about reopening plants in Spring Hill, Tenn., and Janesville, Wisc., as well as new vehicles for the Shreveport, La., plant which is slated to close.

The union is willing to discuss taking on more $14 per hour jobs to make that happen, said Joe Ashton, UAW vice president.

"We're willing to discuss anything that creates jobs," he said.

Part of GM's investment includes about 250 jobs announced last week at a Kentucky plant that builds Corvettes.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: General Motors to Add Jobs

Explainer: Ten cars with surprising gas mileage

  • Image: 2011 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe
    GM  /  Wieck
    The 2011 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe delivers an impressive 26 mpg on the highway.

    Everyone and his goldfish knows that you can get good gas mileage by driving a Toyota Prius. But many of us want to buy cars with features that typical high-mileage economy cars don’t provide.

    Those requirements don’t have to doom us to terrible fuel economy; we just have to choose our cars more carefully. So here’s a list of 10 vehicles with unexpectedly good fuel economy for their size and/or vehicle type.

    (Note: This is not a list of the 10 vehicles with the best fuel economy; you can find that list on the EPA’s website).

  • Audi Q7 TDI

    Audi

    EPA MPG city/highway/combined: 17/25/20
    Drivetrain: 3.0-l V6 diesel, 8-sp man.
    Vehicle category: 7-seat SUV

    With the Q7 you really can average 25 mpg on a long trip in a sure-footed quattro all-wheel-drive, three-row, seven-seat SUV. You do have to fuel it with diesel, which costs a bit more than gasoline, but you will only have to do that every 600-something miles. And you won’t pay any other penalties because the performance and smoothness of the drivetrain are indistinguishable from that of a comparable gas turbo V6.

  • Buick LaCrosse eAssist

    GM  /  Wieck

    EPA MPG city/highway/combined (estimated): 25/37/31
    Drivetrain: 2.4-l 4-cyl. Hybrid, 6-sp auto
    Vehicle category: mid-size car

    Here’s a midsized Buick — with all the luxury the brand implies — that delivers 37 mpg on the highway. The old advertising slogan was “Wouldn’t you really rather drive a Buick?” The answer to that question for many

    years was “no,” but now that the company’s products have become excellent, if the alternative is some cramped, buzzy econobox, here’s your 37 mpg solution. Because of the compact size of the “eAssist” mild hybrid system, the rear seats fold flat for a pass-through from the trunk — a feature that isn’t available in full hybrid sedans because the space behind the seat is occupied by electric drive electronics.

  • Chevrolet Equinox

    GM  /  Wieck

    EPA MPG city/highway/combined: 22/32/26
    Drivetrain: 2.4-l 4-cyl, 6-sp auto
    Vehicle category: SUV

    Compact SUVs are the new family cars for many consumers, but even though they aren’t gargantuan ground-pounders, they can still get pretty mediocre fuel economy, especially when equipped with a V6. Chevy has dropped in a brawny-but-smooth four-cylinder that delivers 32 mpg in highway driving, and buyers have been snapping them up as fast as the company can build them.

  • Chevrolet Corvette

    GM  /  Wieck

    EPA MPG city/highway/combined: 16/26/19
    Drivetrain: 6.2-l V8, 6-sp man.
    Vehicle category: two-seater

    No one buys sports cars for their fuel economy, but wouldn’t it be nice if some ludicrously fast 430 hp rocket also delivered 26 mpg on the highway? Well, here it is. The Corvette will crank out mile after mile of mid-20s mileage while you’re on the highway driving to the best curvy mountain roads or some distant race circuit for a bit of track day fun.

  • Ford Fusion Hybrid

    Ford  /  Wieck

    EPA MPG city/highway/combined: 41/36/39
    Drivetrain: 2.5-l 4-cyl. hybrid, CVT
    Vehicle category: midsize car

    Here’s the most efficient vehicle on this list, with 39 mpg in combined driving — the 41 mpg city, 36 mpg highway Ford Fusion Hybrid. It doesn’t carry the humpbacked styling or overt political connotations of a Prius, but it does deliver nearly the same gas mileage in a vehicle with a more comfortable ride and vastly better handling.

  • Ford F-150

    Ford  /  Wieck

    EPA MPG city/highway/combined: 17/23/20
    Drivetrain: 3.7-l V6, 6-sp auto
    Vehicle category: full-size truck

    It takes energy to move a load, and that energy comes from gas. Trucks burn more gas than cars even when they aren’t hauling loads because they are built big and sturdy enough to withstand heavy-duty use. That has typically meant that gas mileage ranged between “dismal” and merely “bad.” But Ford’s new V6-powered F-150 has achieved the widely accepted threshold of “decent” gas mileage — 20 mpg. That’s the truck’s combined EPA rating, and they EPA says it can do even better on the highway at 23 mpg. Our testing scored 20 mpg highway too, but other reviewers did better. Regardless, it is a big step forward considering that old trucks wouldn’t go 20 miles on a gallon of gas even if they started driving atop the Continental Divide.

  • Honda Odyssey

    Honda  /  Wieck

    EPA MPG city/highway/combined: 19/28/22
    Drivetrain: 3.5-l V6, 6-sp auto
    Vehicle category: minivan

    Remind me: Why do we call these things “minivans” again? They were pretty small when they started out, but now they are 4,500-pound, eight-passenger behemoths. It would be asking a lot for something this big to get reasonable gas mileage, but the Odyssey delivers, using cylinder deactivation to run on three cylinders when possible, along with a six-speed transmission to get the power to the wheels as efficiently as possible.

  • Hyundai Sonata

    David McNew  /  Getty Images

    EPA MPG city/highway/combined: 24/35/28
    Drivetrain: 2.4-l, 6-sp man.
    Vehicle category: large car

    The Hyundai Sonata has a smidge more interior space than the Fusion or LaCrosse and rates 35 mpg highway with its base engine and transmission. Hyundai also offers a hybrid version, but the everyday model provides 35 mpg on the window sticker, and anecdotal evidence says it will even get 40 mpg on the highway.

  • Hyundai Elantra

    Hyundai

    EPA MPG city/highway/combined: 29/40/33
    Drivetrain: 1.8-l 4-cyl, 6-sp auto
    Vehicle category: Compact car

    Forty mpg might be a stretch for the Sonata, but the compact Elantra should do that without breaking a sweat, according to the EPA’s 40 mpg highway rating. As with the bigger Hyundai, the Elantra achieves its segment-benchmark fuel economy rating with its base drivetrain, so the hundreds of thousands of Elantras the company sells will all contribute to the fleet of 40 mpg cars on the road. This is in contrast to the special, high-efficiency models from competitors, which cost more and will account for a paltry few percent of sales.

  • Volkswagen Passat

    Volkswagen

    EPA MPG city/highway/combined (estimated): 31/43/35
    Drivetrain: 2.0-l 4-cyl. diesel, 6-sp. dual-clutch auto-manual
    Vehicle category: large car

    If the diesel engine in the Q7 can get 26 mpg on the highway, what could one in a slippery sedan achieve? According to VW, the answer will be 43 mpg when the EPA’s official numbers are announced. That means the Passat will go more than 800 miles on a tank. Those of us who love pumping gas in the freezing cold or blazing heat might miss standing out in the weather regularly, but for the rest of us, incredible efficiency matched with a large fuel tank combine to provide unprecedented freedom from pumping fuel.

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