CAMI Gets $250 Million Investment For Flexible Assembly Line

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler

GM announced a $250 million dollar investment for the CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ontaro. CAMI is the main production site for the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain (also known as the Theta crossovers), two of GM’s best selling models, and the investment comes amid uncertainty over the fate of CAMI itself.

Earlier in the year, CAMI was one of three sites being considered for production of the next generation Terrain and Equinox, along with GM’s former Saturn plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee and a site in Mexico. In its current state, CAMI is running beyond maximum capacity, with overflow being sent to GM’s Oshawa, Ontario plant as well as Spring Hill. Both Spring Hill and Mexico were being considered due to the lower costs; Tennessee is staffed mainly by new hires who are paid wages roughly half that of most UAW workers, while Mexico’s costs are substantially lower than in Canada or the United States.

While GM ultimately decided to invest the $250 million in CAMI, there is no official word on whether it will build the crossovers. A GM press release described the investment as being earmarked for a flexible assembly line, similar to the one utilized in Oshawa. A flex line is capable of building any number of vehicles on one assembly line. While crossovers make up 40 percent of Canada’s light vehicle exports, this opens the door for CAMI to produce almost anything in GM’s lineup.

On the other hand, there are a few factors that could pop up at a later date. CAMI could see Theta production migrate elsewhere, as GM attempts to increase the profitability of these vehicles, which sold over 300,000 units combined in 2012. Another issue is possible job losses associated with increased robotization, something the Canadian Auto Workers union is well aware of. And finally, the CAMI investment raises further questions about the future of Oshawa, which has slowly seen its product migrate back to American plants.

Derek Kreindler
Derek Kreindler

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  • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Mar 09, 2013

    Well, if you believe the 3-part on Dan Akerson, there's no strategy for the company. That would mean that it's useless trying to figure out what's going on with CAMI getting a flex line when there's already one in Oshawa. An assembly plant with a flex line would be invaluable for its ability to add runs of popular vehicles in short supply, but like electrical generating plants having base line output, the flex line needs a base model for steady production. Ideally, ALL of GM's assembly plants are flex lines, allowing production and distribution to be fine tuned. Given the head scratching moves made both north and south of the world's longest undefended border, I'm inclined to believe that there really IS no master plan at work, Akerson is making decisions by the seat of his pants, and GM is headed for a tough stretch when his successor(s) are forced to initiate a period of rationalization.

    • Doctor olds Doctor olds on Mar 09, 2013

      If you believe the 3 part, you are misinformed. It is amazingly naive of folks who seldom if ever deal with even $1 million issues to think those running a $150+Billion company don't have a future plan! This is especially absurd given the incredible amount of validation and long lead time, not to mention these little 1/4 $billion decisions made in the car business. Think about it.

  • Pig_Iron Pig_Iron on Mar 10, 2013

    If Oshawa closes, where will the Canadian GM headquarters be? Probably like the other foreign makers there. In a marketing office / parts warehouse in suburban Toronto. I guess anyone who want's to see it, should swing by the Oshawa auto museum before the closure.

    • Doctor olds Doctor olds on Mar 10, 2013

      @Pig_Iron- I wouln't jump to the conclusion that Oshawa will go away. GM maintains a considerable staff, including product engineering activities in Canada. In recognition of the strategic importance of automaking product development and management, as well as manufacturing, the government has long insisted that GM maintain those particular activities in Canada. I think Ford has similar agreements, but am not familiar with them.

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