By Kimberly Chin and Adrienne Roberts
General Motors Co. said Friday it will invest $300 million to build a new electric car domestically rather than outside the country, a decision that comes as President Trump has blasted the Detroit auto maker for its plans to close four U.S. factories.
The planned investment in an existing Michigan plant, GM said, is part of a broader commitment to spend $1.8 billion at its U.S. manufacturing operations, adding 700 jobs in several states over the next three years.
Within the last week, Mr. Trump has taken to Twitter to press GM and its chief executive, Mary Barra, to keep open a plant in Lordstown, Ohio, criticizing the company and the United Auto Workers union for not securing the plant's future.
Ms. Barra, speaking to reporters Friday, declined to comment directly on Mr. Trump's recent tweets. In a conversation with the president over the weekend, she said she emphasized that the company needs to remain strong to preserve its jobs and manufacturing base in the U.S. "And that's what we're working on," she said, after announcing the Michigan investment.
GM and Ms. Barra have repeatedly defended five plant closures disclosed in November -- four in the U.S. and one in Canada -- saying the auto maker needs to improve profits and prepare for an expected downturn in the U.S. market. However, that has done little to mollify the president, who latched onto the Lordstown plant closure at a recent at a recent campaign rally.
Ms. Barra said the reversal of earlier plans to build GM's newest electric car outside the U.S. was influenced in part by a new free-trade deal struck last year by the Trump administration for North America.
The new pact, which aims to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, requires a greater portion of a car be built in the region to escape tariffs -- a rule that favors GM and other car makers already making most of their U.S.-sold cars in North America.
The proposed deal, called the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement, must still be ratified by Congress.
Ms. Barra, on Friday, backed the pending trade pact.
"We think there was a lot of work that was done to modernize it and it recognizes the complexity of the auto industry supply chain," she said. "We are making adjustments and we will comply."
The new electric vehicle will be built at GM's factory in Orion Township, Mich., alongside another subcompact car and the autonomous vehicles the company makes for testing at its driverless-car unit. GM said it would create roughly 400 jobs at the plant to build the electric vehicle.
The vehicle will be modeled on the Chevrolet Bolt's architecture and will sell under the Chevy brand, the company said.
The investment announcement comes as the Detroit auto makers prepare for talks this summer with the UAW for new four-year labor contracts. Securing new factory work and jobs is a priority for the union, which represents more than 150,000 blue-collar workers at GM, Ford Motor Co., and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, and the companies often use job security as a bargaining chip at the negotiating table.
Mr. Trump, in chiding the UAW about the fate of GM's Lordstown plant, pressed the two sides to start negotiations to prevent its permanent closure. A union spokesman said the UAW, in service to its members, is leaving no stone unturned to keep plants open.
Other auto makers have announced investments in the U.S. recently. Ford said Wednesday it would increase its bet on electric cars, converting a plant in Michigan to build plug-in models. Toyota Motor Corp. said last week it would increase a planned investment in the U.S. by about a third to nearly $13 billion to build more models and parts in the country.
Mr. Trump praised both Ford and Toyota on Twitter, and said Toyota's investment was evidence the new proposed trade agreement between the U.S., Canada and Mexico is fixing what he described as a "broken NAFTA deal."
Write to Kimberly Chin at firstname.lastname@example.org and Adrienne Roberts at Adrienne.Roberts@wsj.com