Editorial: It's Too Late For Oshawa

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler

Not long ago, Canada was, according to ex-GM CEO Dan Akerson, the most expensive place in the world to build a car. A strong Canadian dollar meant that the cars and crossovers built at GM’s plants in Oshawa and Ingersoll, Ontario, weren’t as profitable as those built in the US or Mexico, where labor costs were significantly lower.

But even a newly weakened Canadian dollar isn’t going to save Oshawa.

TTAC has been predicting the end of Oshawa for nearly two years, The Globe and Mail (Canada’s newspaper of record), has come around to this notion, citing similar logic as our previous reports – namely, that all of Oshawa’s product can be built at other factories, or is being moved away from Oshawa entirely.

While some products, like the Chevrolet Camaro, are being moved due to a change in architecture (the next-gen Camaro will be built in the same factory as its platform-mate, the Cadillac ATS), others are being moved due to labor costs (the popular Theta crossovers will be produced in Mexico and Tennessee) or contractual obligations (the next-generation Buick Regal is almost certainly being built at an under-utilized Opel factory in Germany). In the case of the W-Body Chevrolet Impala (sold as a fleet only vehicle) its lifespan is coming to an end, and with it, a dedicated assembly plant, the ancient Oshawa Consolidated Line, which has already been given one stay of execution.

The Oshawa Flex Line, on the other hand, is a modern assembly plant that can build everything from the Camaro to the new Impala to the Equinox CUV all on one line. But even that won’t be enough to save it from closing, not when every single product can be made cheaper in Mexico, in the Southern United States or at the UAW’s lower, two-tier wage scale. If it were not for the Vitality Commitment signed by GM, (which promised to maintain 16 percent of vehicle production in Canada in exchange for bailout funds), the plant would probably be closed by now.

Instead, the earliest GM can depart is 2016, and the plant’s closure will be a devastating blow to a town that is as invested in General Motors as Green Bay is the Packers. According to The Globe and Mail, 3,600 jobs would be lost from the Oshawa plants- good, full-time jobs that are badly needed in a region that is economically limping along after years of a rout in manufacturing.

But discussion of a moribund auto industry for Ontario is a bit of a stretch. Chrysler, Ford, Honda and Toyota have all made significant commitments to Canadian manufacturing in the same window of time that GM has continuously cut product from Oshawa. The weaker Canadian dollar and strong auto sales both in Canada and the United States will only help.

Derek Kreindler
Derek Kreindler

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  • Mikey Mikey on Dec 09, 2014

    @Pig_Iron...Yes they built it on a beautiful location, in the second marsh. It really is a beautiful building, overlooking Lake Ontario. I'm not sure of the actual numbers, but their is still a fair number of salary people employed.

  • Arthur Dailey Arthur Dailey on Dec 09, 2014

    Perhaps Big Al can inform us how the closure of all auto manufacturing in Australia will help their economy? It appears that the Canadian Auto Workers made a huge mistake listening to their then President Bob White (and his ego) and separating from the UAW. Ever since the UAW has focused on protecting jobs in the USA, often at the expense of jobs in Canada.

  • Teddyc73 As I asked earlier under another article, when did "segment" or "class" become "space"? Does using that term make one feel more sophisticated? If GM's products in other segments...I mean "space" is more profitable then sedans then why shouldn't they discontinue it.
  • Robert Absolutely!!! I hate SUV's , I like the better gas milage and better ride and better handling!! Can't take a SUV 55mph into a highway exit ramp! I can in my Malibu and there's more than enough room for 5 and trunk is plenty big enough for me!
  • Teddyc73 Since when did automakers or car companies become "OEM". Probably about the same time "segment" or "class" became "space". I wish there were more sedans. I would like an American sedan. However, as others have stated, if they don't sell in large enough quantities to be profitable the automakers...I mean, "OEMs" aren't going to build them. It's simple business.
  • Varezhka I have still yet to see a Malibu on the road that didn't have a rental sticker. So yeah, GM probably lost money on every one they sold but kept it to boost their CAFE numbers.I'm personally happy that I no longer have to dread being "upgraded" to a Maxima or a Malibu anymore. And thankfully Altima is also on its way out.
  • Tassos Under incompetent, affirmative action hire Mary Barra, GM has been shooting itself in the foot on a daily basis.Whether the Malibu cancellation has been one of these shootings is NOT obvious at all.GM should be run as a PROFITABLE BUSINESS and NOT as an outfit that satisfies everybody and his mother in law's pet preferences.IF the Malibu was UNPROFITABLE, it SHOULD be canceled.More generally, if its SEGMENT is Unprofitable, and HALF the makers cancel their midsize sedans, not only will it lead to the SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST ones, but the survivors will obviously be more profitable if the LOSERS were kept being produced and the SMALL PIE of midsize sedans would yield slim pickings for every participant.SO NO, I APPROVE of the demise of the unprofitable Malibu, and hope Nissan does the same to the Altima, Hyundai with the SOnata, Mazda with the Mazda 6, and as many others as it takes to make the REMAINING players, like the Excellent, sporty Accord and the Bulletproof Reliable, cheap to maintain CAMRY, more profitable and affordable.