By on June 1, 2012

GM has just gotten back to us about the Oshawa Consolidated plant closing down next year, and despite the carefully worded, PR-approved statements, there are some good nuggets of information, and perhaps a couple conclusions to draw from here.

The Consolidated line was originally set to close in 2008, based on plans drawn up in 2005. Demand for the Equinox and Impala meant that the line stayed open until now. The shutdown will occur in phases, with the third shift phased out in the fourth quarter of 2012, and the second shift ending in the first quarter of 2013. Production will end when the final current-gen Impala rolls off the line in 2013.

With the introduction of the new Impala and the Cadillac XTS, production will shift to the Oshawa “Flex” line that builds cars like the Buick Regal and Chevrolet Camaro. Currently, GM estimates that two shifts should be sufficient to meet demand for all cars, but, as a GM spokesperson noted

“…based on market demand and the introduction of the next generation Impala on the Flex Line, there may be a need for additional capacity in the future.”

GM also confirmed that despite some early reports, there were no plans to build the Impala at a re-opened plant in Alabama. Detroit-Hamtramck would be the sole venue for U.S. Impala production. Presumably, GM is banking on strong sales and a third shift at Oshawa to meet demand, and hopefully the workers who will be on “indefinite layoff” would get a crack at those jobs. Those who aren’t may be able to opt for a retirement package.

Once again, we’d like to thank Mikey and other readers who have shared their experiences at GM/Oshawa and invite them to contribute in any way they feel comfortable. Comments can be left below, and as always, we can be contacted at editors@ttac.com

 

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41 Comments on “Is There A Silver Lining Amid The GM Oshawa Closure?...”


  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Is the Equinox still being built at CAMI as well?

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    Am I paranoid, or is there a valid reason to fear a vehicle built at a factory with a demoralized workforce?

    I once woked at a 40 year-old factory that was to be completely shut down, and by the time I was let go, (a pair of months before the final shutdown) people were already in zombie mode.

    I was a young engineer and would likely find a new job (took me several months, but I did). But the old timers, which by the way looked like the chaps working in the photo, knew in their heart of hearts that they their next job -if they could find a job- was going to be far down in the economic ladder.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      In a modern plant? Probably not, unless the management is really slacking on QA. Workers really have very little power to influence the quality of the products being produced.

      There’s really very little room to make mistakes in assembly any more.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        http://www.lemonaidcars.com/ – This Canadian industry watchdog wasn’t drinking the Kool-Aid during the Carpocolypse and saw plenty of issues with barely assembled Chrysler and GM stuff during the era.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        Psar – if the workers have so little impact then is the reason for the continued, but declining, gap between say Toyota and Ford in reliability due to the design of components (powertrain, vents, knobs, electronics etc). Since a lot of components are bought in (seats, brakes etc) from outside suppliers couldn`t the gap be closed quicker by just utilising Toyota’s suppliers?

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        “couldn`t the gap be closed quicker by just utilising Toyota’s suppliers”

        Assuming you pay them the same for the same product and have the same QA process, then yes, yes you could.

        That said, if you’re a supplier to (your example, Ford’s not as bad as they used to be) Ford and Toyota, and Ford busts your balls on price and doesn’t check what you send them. while Toyota pays fair, works with you and QAs every batch, then it doesn’t matter.

        It’s not just suppliers or components, it’s every step, from design to plant management and even warranty performance (which gets into manufacturer/dealer relations) that determine end-user perceptions.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        Psar – thanks. I used Ford as an example of a domestic because I didn`t want to use the usual suspect and start a comment war. I agree that the supplier will go with who treats them best and pays them well. I would have hoped that the laggards in reliability (although closing the gap) would treat their suppliers well and keep well, long established relationships.

      • 0 avatar
        Athos Nobile

        “Workers really have very little power to influence the quality of the products being produced.”

        Except they actually do.

        If the guy wrenching on the car doesn’t give a crap… defects eventually start to creep in.

        Managing the site becomes “challenging” to put it nicely.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        It is very instrumental to see the episode of “Ultimate Factories” where they visit the ultramodern Camaro assembly plant. Pretty much all of the unibody is stamped and welded robotically, with automatic laser checking of the dimensions for accuracy. Many of the sub-assemblies like the drivetrain come to the point of assembly pre-tested and ready for assembly. Dashboards come from an outside supplier pre assembled and tested, with laser guided marks for lining up prior to bolt in. Sure there are plenty of places where workers could intentionally blow the assembly – loose bolts, wiring, etc, but such efforts can be easily attached to a given line worker. Contrast this to the old days, where many items had slotted connections that were fully dependent on the effort made by the line worker to line things up properly, which we all know didn’t always happen in the past. So psar is pretty much on target: today’s assembly quality is pretty much a given. I suspect most problems are due to infant mortality of parts, something that is likely due to bean counters squeezing the suppliers for a few more cents off. A sure fire way to lose customers in the future.

      • 0 avatar
        Athos Nobile

        @golden2husky

        Those ultimate factories shows are real eye candy. But after watching 2 or 3 I got bored. They show me that all use the same “recipe” the difference being the “spices bag”. At this point all of them have moved to some form of TPS.

        Being said that, I really enjoyed the one that showed the R&R factory with the 2 guys welding the roof panel in perfect coordination. The robots carrying the engines in the Porsche factory (similar to those in Wall-E) were also cool. And I got a video of who they put together the 3 series from 2 gens ago and what impressed me was the bodies warehouse and the Ecoat/cataforesis/etc process.

        However, the real sophistication of modern manufacturing lies in what you can’t see in the program: TPS, 6S, process design, logistics, QA, etc…

        Even a stone-age plant can be made to look awesome on TV. I’ve seen it done twice already. I remember a camera crew that thought the noise made by the rattle guns was cool and used it thoroughly.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Athis: Agreed that there is plenty of eye candy. But that is understandable. Six sigma just isn’t going to be very enticing to average views. But clearly much of the variables have been removed by robotics. I have worked on cars from the early 70s and all of them have plenty of adjustment in the mounting tabs and the like. I aligned my first car to near perfection. But I don’t know of any modern car like that. The variation that necessitated such adjustments are gone. Guys like Mikey no doubt had to deal with more that just assembly; they were truly responsible for how well the body looked at the end of the line. Today’s guys (I suspect) have it much easier, though I suspect the work is less rewarding. And yes, “stone age” plants are pretty cool. I went to Germany in the early 80s and went on a tour of the BMW assembly plant. Modern for the day, no doubt, but 30 years ago. It was amazing. And the tour guide unlocked the M1 that was in the museum and let me sit in it….it pays to not act like the ugly American…

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      @Husky…Your right. I spent my first five years in the pit.Then I went to wheels. My first good job was “hood fit”.The front fenders and hood came to us already assembled and bolted.Five of us had to shim, and adjust fender to door,but we couldn’t move the door. So there was a good deal of judgement calls. I was the “hood” guy,and once you got on to it,”Hood fit” was a great job. If you see a late seventies chevy/pontiac B.check the hood fit. The good fits were probably my jobs.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    In 2005 I bought a Pontiac Grand Prix GT that was built at Oshawa. It appeared at the top of the class on the JD Power Initial Quality report for premium fullsize sedans (not quite sure what made the Grand Prix premium). In 2008 it appeared again sharing the podium for long term quality according to JD Power with two other GM W-Body sedans.

    At delivery there was one rear map light that was mismounted by about 1/4 of an inch (the light was about 1/4 inch too deep in its bezel). They fixed it on the spot at delivery with the turn of a screw.

    In 4-1/2 years and 80K miles there was one minor recall (can’t even remember what for, I think it was to reprogram some module like airbags or ABS) and I had a TSB repair (free) to deal with intermittent operation of the remote start. I did front and rear brakes at 68K miles. I replaced the OEM tires at 60K miles. I had to have the six-disc CD changer cleaned once because the operation got a little hinkie. The only sign of wear, including the allegedly leather seats, was on the temp up and down buttons on the driver side climate control.

    The paint was deep, rich, and pretty darn near perfect – certainly was a higher caliber paint job than other GM products at the same time. You could count the rock chips on the nose/hood with one hand with fingers left over. It was a very well put together car and the most trouble free car I ever owned.

    I did install front and rear strut tower braces and upgraded the factory braces under the hood after strong online recommendations. Boy were they right. The strut braces dramatically improved steering and handling, swapping out to some higher quality braces on the front took some of the flex out of the bendy GM W-Body.

    No, no clunking intermediate steering shaft.

    The Canadians that put my car together did a great job, and I remain grateful.

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      I have an 08 and although I do have the clunky steering shaft and replaced the rear sway bar links (at 65K), I haven’t experienced any real problems with the car since I purchased. What brand of front/rear tower braces did you use, and what braces under the hood are you referring too?

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        The one’s I got were made by BMR Fabrication. BMR is no longer making them however there are new ones for sale on eBay.

        Unfortunately the gods at TTAC no longer allow HTML so I can’t link to a pic to the braces.

        If you open up your hood and look at the passenger and driver side of your engine bay you’ll see a brace in each corner, extending from the front clip to the fender. They are held in place by two bolts on each end and are made of stamped steel painted flat black. The one on the passenger side would be forward of the fuse and breaker box, and the battery will be somewhat under the brace.

        BMR also makes replacement braces that are more stout than the factory stamped steel. The rear brace is a PITA to install just because the working room is tight. No holes to drill, mounts to the existing locations.

        The front braces will make a huge difference in handling. If you do the modification you will be left scratching your head on why GM didn’t ship the W-Body out this way stock.

        For those that are going to say all this does is put more stress on the strut towers, GM offers through GMPP aftermarket strut braces also. The BMR ones are better fabricated and have an excellent powder coat finish.

        Good luck!

      • 0 avatar
        CRConrad

        @APaGttH: “Unfortunately the gods at TTAC no longer allow HTML so I can’t link to a pic to the braces.”

        You don’t have to make it an HTML link; just post the URL as plain text, and I’m sure many — perhaps even most — of us are capable of copy-and-pasting it into the browser’s address line for ourselves.

        Heck of a lot easier than googling around based on your description, at least.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        @CRConrad I put straight URL in text in a couple of posts and they have been edited out.

        TEST:

        http://www.cnn.com

        EDIT:

        Well that is just odd – I did a post a few days ago with straight links to specific YouTube videos (no I didn’t grab YouTube’s HTML I just copied and pasted the text link) and they were all edited out of the post when I posted.

        Thanks for heads up – heck of a lot easier providing links!!!

      • 0 avatar
        28-cars-later

        I located the braces you are talking about, I have to make some minor modifications with hoses for it to fit in the front but I’m going to order the parts and see if i can fit it in, thanks for even mentioning it I’m always looking for a nice mod on this thing.

        I think if your put characters in the url it filter misses it, let me try this:
        –http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Everyone on here is familiar with my 2004 Impala, so no need to re-address it, but it has been the nicest car I have ever owned thus far.

    Maintenance? New struts, all four in April, rear rotors replaced a few times, twice courtesy of Chevy. 110K miles, now.

    My hat is off to Mikey and the guys up there for a job well done!

  • avatar
    DIYer

    No silver lining at all for Oshawa and the CAW. This is good for Detroit, Nashville, and to some extent, the UAW. It is a most excellent golden lining for GM. The bottom line is GM is trying to whipsaw the CAW into a 2-tier wage system, accepting $14/hour for new hires, like they did with the UAW.

  • avatar
    Pastor Glenn

    Two-tier wages are not right, because anyone doing the same job with the same training should be paid the same.

    Women have been saying that for 40 years and are only now beginning to get paid about the same as men.

    GM and the others who’ve implemented the 2-tier wages suck. Sorry, but it’s true.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      No – they only deserve $14 an hour – haven’t you heard the talking points. Want more than that should have gone to college.

      Of course if we keep depressing wages in America and we keep holding the line even among white collar workers up to the top 10% wage earners eventually no one is going to be able to buy those shiny new Chevrolets, or Toyotas, or Hyundais, or… except the top 10%. Then the masses can shop at Wal-Mart, drive hoopties, and take public transit while asking, “would you like foam on your latte.”

      Oh what a wonderful world it will be!

      • 0 avatar
        Caboose

        Lemme tell ya: I know a very great number of college grads that would throw acid in the face of Mother Teresa or spit in the cous cous of starving African children for a $14/hr. job.

        College is no longer a guarantee of jack crap, and hasn’t been for some time. Think it’s easy to offshore manufacturing jobs? Try being an entry-level white-collar guy.

      • 0 avatar
        28-cars-later

        Where can I go to spit in the food of the starving African children, I’ll happily do it for free. :)

        In all seriousness though I agree college is no longer a guarantee of success, and this myth has been perpetuated for years. Degrees in Sanskrit, Amazonian Studies, and Art History are a sure ticket to the unemployment line. I’ve been fortunate I chose a degree in IT and have since discovered that’s the place to be. Why? You need IT, you have to pay reasonably well because the field at the moment is very competitive, and the more years you have in it equate to more pay in your next position. All of this is despite the fact your an incompetent or can barely do your job. Sure a smart hiring manager can determine when a candidate is blowing smoke, but not all hiring managers are as capable.

    • 0 avatar
      daro31

      If anyone wants a history lesson in 2 tier wage system it was first tried in Canada at a CAW plant by Tecumseh Products of Canada, in about 1986.Tecumseh had already established the sytem in their American Plant in Tecumsek Michigan to fight off the invading Japanese company Matsushita which built a huge refrigeration compressor plant in Tennessee. Even though no one at the London plant would have taken a wage reduction, the employees where told to fight the system where new employees would have been paid $14.00 an hour instead of the current $18.00 an hour rate. Well the CAW got the guys to reject it, promisinf that they would stand beside them; the plant closed and there was a lot of surprised hourly workers when the CAW was nowhere to be found.
      By the way the 2 tier wage system did not save the American plant iether, all of the work is now in Sicom Brazil.

  • avatar
    toxicroach

    Yeah, it’s the mean old capitalists.

    It’s not the top tier wage earners screwing over the new guys at all.

    At the non-union plants everyone makes a good wage. It’s only at union plants that the old guys get paid really well and the new guys get screwed.

    Nobody is against these guys making good money, but it has to be at a level where it is possible to make cars without being at a perpetual cost disadvantage with everyone else on the planet. It’s not unreasonable and its needed to keep these jobs at all.

  • avatar
    MikeInCanada

    So what’s the long term game plan from the CAW?

    It’s a given that they can’t compete with Mexico however everything is not going south of the border (US Border, that is). But now they’re competing with the mid-western US.

    If, as mentioned in earlier postings quality is designed/built in starting at the sub contractors – and that final assembly quality factors are not what they used to be then what is the incentive to build cars in high cost Ontario?

  • avatar
    Potemkin

    Like Lou Dobbs used to say, before CNN fired him, the US has the best government money can buy. That said we can quit expecting the governments of Canada or the US to bite the hand that feeds them.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Just one comment. I expected a lot more nasty comments,in the two posts. So thank you B&B for having a heart,and showing some compasssion.

    Personally,my guess: GM may “mothball” the plant.Its better than a tear out.

    The timing of the annoucment?…. That suggests to me, that the closure will become a bargaining chip in 2013 CAW/GM talks.

    I don’t think the last chapter been written on this story.

  • avatar
    daro31

    I am beginning to see a pattern, CAW plants closing and moving south. I am curious if Mikey would agree with me, but I have done 37 years of my working career in CAW plants. So I have a little experience. I am retired now but put in 15 years on the assembly line before going back to school and getting Manufacturing Engineering degree and then put in the rest of the time in CAW plants in production, supervision and quality. I can drive around my city and see 5 CAW plants that have closed and in all of them I see the same thing. Eventually the burden of unionized employees on restrictions and disabilitys becomes more than the company is willing to bare and they starting looking for new places for a fresh start. I am starting to take it personally that I have worked in all of these place that are gone; I do sense a trend. For the guys who do the job, that they were hired for they are worth every bit of $38.00 an hour or whatever they can get. Knowbody ever talked about the number of K14′s leaning on brooms or playing card all day in the cafeteria that are the lifeblood of the CAW. Deal with those guys who have figured out how to come into work when they feel like it and figure that they are untouchable and you will solve the plant closing issue.

  • avatar
    Doh

    In 1993, GM saw that the “Lack Luster” F Bodied Camoro/Firebird had the poorest intial quality of any of thier new cars. What did GM do? They moved the build from thier Van Neys plant to thier St Teresa plant. Because the 1990′s Buick Century was one of the best in intial quaulity built GM’s.

    7 years later the F Bodied Camaro/FireBird, was gone and St Teresa Plant was shuttered. 12 years later the Buick Century was gone.

    As the “Kings” song goes, “This beat goes on”

    Kill one of your Highest Quality Plants, because another plant can do it Cheaper or the Goverment spent more $$$$$$$$’s to bail you out.!

    Quality means nothing!

    As a Canadian taxpayer, I say “Hey GM I bailed you out too!”

    As a Ford Saleman in Canada, I say “Keep doing what you are doing GM”

  • avatar
    Potemkin

    I have read a lot about the unions being the reason that the the Detroit three failed. This is like Obama and the Dems blaming Bush for everything thats gone wrong during the 4 years Obama has been in charge, and by the way 2 of those 4 years he had a Dem congress and senate. The question for the B&B is if the guys who ran these companies had done their jobs would we even be discussing this. No because they would have produced vehicles that were desireable, reliable and trouble free thus shutting the imports out. If we need to blame someone for the failure of the domestic auto industry lets blame the people making the decisions not the people on the line who just follow orders. Wars are won and lost by the Generals not the troops.

    • 0 avatar
      daro31

      “If we need to blame someone for the failure of the domestic auto industry lets blame the people making the decisions not the people on the line who just follow orders.”

      There is plenty of blame to go around for the inroads the imports have made, but anyone who sees this as simplistic as its all managements fault has never spent a day on an assembly line. Yes it is managements fault; after a 15 minute shit run because the plant chairman was suspended after a fist fight with another employee the company should have cleaned out the plant and rehired a crew that would not sabatoge the product to make a point. Should have done like Regan and the Air Traffick Controllers. So yes you are right it is all managements fault and the workers are completely justified to put floor sweeping in every engine and transmission to get justice. Oh and by the way, that is exactly how it happened, committeemen spread out through the plant with the message “Shit Run 1:00 -1:15. All of a sudden every single operation on the assembly line is sabatoged in some little way and it takes a week to clear the repair hole. Get together with a bunch of retired CAW workers now and they refer to these as the good old days when the union had the balls to take on the company.Now that is how I want my car built, by good ole boys with balls.

  • avatar
    Potemkin

    The problem with education is that its about learning how to repeat what you have been told not about applying what you have been told. The criteria for advancement in any industry should be “Don’t tell me what you know, show me what you can do”. The North American mantra has been “he/she is just the person we need they have a MBA” never mind that they have no knowledge of or talent for the business. Much of what has gone wrong with North American manufacturing been the result of “educated” managers who knew nothing about what they were managing.

  • avatar
    Potemkin

    daro31: Never heard of a Shit run. I spent 35 years in the car plant in Oshawa and only heard of one instance of multiple sabotage. Someone in the paint shop threw grit on the paint of several cars. It happened twice in one week and the culprits were dealt with. That was in the early 90′s I think. Sure some people get pissed for one reason or another and F*** up a job or two but wide spread organized sabotage would be caught and the perpetrators dealt with. Quality is closely monitored and too many screw ups raise all kinds of flags. If indeed the comitteemen and union were organizing sabotage don’t you think that someone would blab to management? Some of the rank and file workers don’t like the union anymore than you do.

  • avatar
    daro31

    Sorry, it wasn’t a GM plant however a very recently closed plant in the Southwestern Ontario area, Late 70′s and through the 80′s was quite common tactic to poorly taken management decisions.


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