GM considers adding production capacity for Saturn Sky, Pontiac Solstice By JAMIE LAREAU | AUTOMOTIVE NEWS Published 05/16/06, 2:33 pm et DETROIT -- With orders backed up for several months, General Motors may build more Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky roadsters. "It's become clear that we need considerably more capacity," says Robert Lutz, GM vice chairman and global vice president of product development. "We are certainly studying a capacity increase." Lutz would not commit on when GM would make a decision but said he wants the capacity boost "as soon as possible." Adding labor and tooling and making other assembly upgrades to the Wilmington, Del., plant could cost tens of millions of dollars. GM builds the Solstice, Sky and Opel GT at the Wilmington plant. Opel has not yet launched the GT. Demand for the Pontiac Solstice is at 35,000 units a year, Lutz said in an interview with Automotive News. The Sky roadster is sold out through the end of the year and in some regions well into next year, Jill Lajdziak, Saturn's general manager, said at a recent press event in San Francisco. The plant is tooled to build 20,000 to 40,000 vehicles a year. Pontiac plans to build 20,000 Solstices. Saturn will likely get 10,000 Skys annually. "With two-seat cars, you have to be very careful how you plan capacity," Lutz says. "Once everybody on the block has one, demand sort of tapers off. "It continues, but it continues at a lower level, so you don't want to have the added capacity come on just when you're over that first peak." Lutz says the Wilmington plant can handle "way more" than 40,000 units a year. GM is going through the complex process of determining the cost of the additional labor, supplier capability, tooling and plant adjustments needed to increase production. Wilmington is a three-shift plant, so it could not offer overtime other than on weekends, says a GM source who asked to not be identified. The plant currently builds 6.5 vehicles an hour or about 155 a day. "To increase production, we'd have to increase line speed, and that typically requires more manpower," the source says. "There could be bottlenecks in the system -- let's say the paint shop, for example, can only paint seven vehicles per hour -- so it would require tweaking the whole system. "Is it possible? Yes, but it would likely cost something." The cost to increase line speed by two to three vehicles per hour can be nominal, but a source says more extensive plant upgrade could cost "tens of millions of dollars."