General Motors Corp., inundated by inquiries about the location of its new Saturn Corp. subsidiary, said yesterday that it does not want to start a "bidding war" between states seeking to attract the new automobile assembly plant.
Illinois Gov. James Thompson has offered the research resources of the University of Illinois and Michigan Gov. James Blanchard has said he will match the offer of any state, while officials of almost every other state have expressed interest in landing Saturn.
GM said yesterday it was both surprised and pleased by the "thousands of inquiries" the company has received since announcing the creation of Saturn Corp. last Tuesday.
The Saturn factory, which could begin turning out a new line of small cars by 1988 at the earliest, has been billed as GM's attempt to revolutionize auto production by lowering costs through advanced technologies. The new plant will employ about 6,000 workers, which would be expected to generate half a billion dollars a year in a local economy, a GM spokesman said.
"General Motors does not believe so-called bidding wars are in the best interests of the company or a community seeking a new plant," the company said in a statement. "We are not as interested in short-term monetary incentives as much as we are in stable, predictable conditions which will give us the lowest long-term continuing operating costs."
Thompson and Blanchard visited GM headquarters last week, the first in an expected parade of state officials. Texas Gov. Mark White and Ohio Gov. Richard Celeste have publicly announced interest.
GM spokesman Stan Hall said the company is "in the throes of sorting through the calls."
Saturn Corp. expects to announce a site decision within three to four months. GM said that "very preliminary studies" have been conducted for about 20 possible sites but that, as of Tuesday, Saturn's President Joseph J. Sanchez had not read the reports. GM said Saturn is "still examining additional areas."
Sanchez, a GM vice president, could not be reached and GM said he plans to take a week before answering media inquiries.
GM said Saturn will consider several factors in selecting a factory site:
* The company hopes and intends to choose a site within this country, but has not ruled out the possiblity of locating abroad.
* A major consideration is the "state and local economic and business climate" as well as the cost and availability of skilled labor, transportation and energy.
* Saturn will look at the proximity of possible sites to suppliers and markets.
* The company also will be interested in sites that provide "training opportunities" for Saturn employes.
"Thorough study is necessary before making a decision because the site is critical to achieving Saturn's goal of eliminating any unnecessary costs," GM said.
A spokesman said that the cost savings will be achieved through advanced technology rather than through lowering workers' wages.
"The goal is not to reduce per capita compensation of workers, but to make them worth it," he said.
The United Auto Workers union has participated in the "study phase" of the Saturn project, but will not make a site recommendation, said Peter Laarman, a union spokesman.
"We have a national membership," Laarman said of the union, which represents 380,000 GM workers and 1.2 million auto workers nationwide. "We can't be rooting for Michigan over Illinois," he said.
Similarly, the Texas Governor's Office of Economic Development said yesterday its efforts to woo Saturn will not favor any one part of the state.
"We really take great care to approach it from a statewide standpoint," said Mimi Purnell, executive director of the office.
"We'll be looking at capacities and necessary job skills . . . those things the governor can use to make a positive and, hopefully, acceptable proposal."