BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) — General Motors is putting more muscle into making Corvettes.

The automaker said Wednesday it will invest $131 million — and add about 250 jobs — at the south-central Kentucky assembly plant that produces the classic muscle car.

The investment allows GM to produce the next-generation Corvette at the Bowling Green plant. Work to retrofit the site will begin even as the plant continues to assemble the Corvette for the next two model years, including the 2012 version.

Nearly 400 production workers now assemble Corvettes at the factory, home to the car's production since 1981. About 1,000 people were employed at the plant at its peak in the 1980s, said Chevrolet spokesman David Caldwell.

He said some of the 250 added jobs might be filled by a pool of laid-off workers.

Caldwell said the plant will not expand, but "what happens inside of its walls changes quite a bit."

The state has already approved $7.5 million in tax incentives for the project.

United Auto Workers Local 2164 vice president Joe Ashton praised the move.

"We need to rebuild the great American middle class," Ashton said in a statement. "There is no better way to achieve this worthy goal than providing meaningful jobs like the ones being created in Bowling Green."

Mark Reuss, GM's North America president, said the investment in Kentucky is part of $3.4 billion made by GM in the US since mid-2009 to keep or create about 9,500 American jobs.

The Corvette plant produced about 15,000 of the cars last year. Corvettes start at $50,000, Caldwell said.

After falling 9 percent last year, sales of the car have rebounded in 2011. GM sold nearly 4,300 from January through April, an increase of 22 percent.

GM emerged from a 2009 bankruptcy after a government bailout. In April, its overall U.S. sales rose 26 percent.

GM's Corvette announcement comes several months after Ford Motor Co. said it would shut down a Louisville assembly plant for a $600 million renovation that will allow it to build the Escape, a small SUV that's selling well.

When it reopens, the Ford plant plans to hire 1,800 more employees — or nearly 5 percent of Ford's current U.S. work force — to build a new version of the Ford Escape small SUV.

Toyota's manufacturing facility in Georgetown, Ky., produces the popular Camry, along with the Avalon and Venza vehicles. It has been forced to impose temporary shutdowns at all of its 13 North American plants after a March 11 earthquake and tsunami damaged factories in northeastern Japan, causing shortages of auto parts.


Auto Writer Tom Krisher contributed to this report from Detroit.