Oshawa May Have Nabbed Future Truck Production From Flint

Mark Stevenson
by Mark Stevenson
oshawa may have nabbed future truck production from flint

Shortly after the stroke of midnight, Jerry Dias and the rest of the Unifor-GM bargaining committee sat down in front of reporters immediately after marathon negotiations. Dias, the president of Unifor, was elated.

“I am pleased to announce to our members … that we have found a solution for your facilities,” he said to Oshawa workers through the media and the press conference live stream.

Indeed, Oshawa was saved.

That’s not to say there won’t be some pain — the Consolidated Line at Oshawa will still close on schedule in 2017 when GM begins production of a redesigned Equinox, and the union made some pension concessions — but, at least for now, the clouds have parted over one of Canada’s longest-standing auto-producing towns.

Yet, the announcement raised more questions as it answered. And there are two major unknowns yet to be revealed: the products allocated to the Oshawa and St. Catharines plants.

On the St. Catharines end of the deal, Unifor workers will build engines into the foreseeable future thanks to engine production undergoing a rare migration from Mexico to Canada. Those are the potatoes.

The meat: Oshawa. And it looks as if the decades-old home of General Motors Canada may get back into the pickup truck business.

After announcing that Unifor had “negotiated hundreds of millions of dollars of investment” for GM workers in Canada, Dias didn’t say where the new product would come from or what it would be. Instead, he simply stated that Oshawa will be the only GM facility that will “build both cars and trucks.”

Don’t let the word “truck” fool you. A truck is a truck — except when it’s not. With many SUVs and crossovers falling into the “light truck” category, the product allotted to Oshawa could be one of those two.

However, as most Oshawa workers are hoping, it could mean the return of pickup truck production to Oshawa, a product line the assembly plant lost during the throes of the recession in 2009. When pickup truck sales picked up again, that extra production went to Silao, Mexico — not Oshawa — in 2014.

Curious is how Mr. Dias categorized the production allotment. With St. Catharines, Dias was liberal with his words: Canada is taking engine production from Mexico. When it came to Oshawa, Dias didn’t utter the word Mexico once. There might be a reason for that.

Earlier this year, Automotive News reported that some Mexican pickup production could move to Flint next year. Unifor may have nabbed that production from the UAW.

Other than the possibility of pickup truck production returning to Canada, speculators have also named the Buick Envision as a possible option for Oshawa, but that may rely more on how much capacity is used at GM’s Chinese assembly plant for sale in that market. Should Chinese demand for the Envision be high, extra production might be needed on this side of the Pacific.

But Oshawa doesn’t just need a “truck.”

The plant currently builds the Buick Regal, which is scheduled to move to Germany full time; the Cadillac XTS, which will go out of production in 2019; and the Chevrolet Impala, which is also built in Michigan. The latter model is the only one of the three that could possibly stay in Oshawa long term, but full-size sedan demand is on a downward trend. Between 2013 (when the new Impala was introduced) and 2015, Impala sales volume dropped 25 percent.

Plainly: Oshawa needs another car. What that car will be is a massive question mark.

Regardless, Jerry Dias and the Unifor team have every reason to be proud. Oshawa will live another day.

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2 of 11 comments
  • Lou_BC Lou_BC on Sep 20, 2016

    This is an interesting development. What constitutes a truck? Maybe Colorado/Canyon since they are the hot sellers. I'm surprised that there is no mention of government subsidies. @Arthur Dailey - well said. I'm sure that the current exchange rate is helpful and offsets higher Canadian wages. @NoID - Mexico is seen as a South American backwater. Many forget that Mexico is North America.

  • Nemosdad Nemosdad on Sep 20, 2016

    Hmmm...I have no problem with this. GM is mandated to build xx number of vehicles sold (in Canada) in Canada. Seems fair. I had a '69 Chevy CST with a 396 built in Oshawa! Hell of a fast truck. Don't know what the rear window was made of but it was stronger than all the heads that bounced off of it.

  • Tassos SNAAB shot itself in the foot when it BASTARDIZED its unique brand by BADGE ENGINEERING its vehicles with GOD DAMNED GM, OPEL, CHEVY, LANCIA and who knows what other automotive RIFF RAFF. I know of no Saab Enthusiast (they do exist) who felt sorry when the stupid maker went BANKRUPT.
  • 28-Cars-Later Example is located in Coldwater Michigan, so..." needs work -- including new brakes."Brakes, brake lines, probably fuel lines. Probably should hit the master cylinder too unless there are seal only kits for it."It has an automatic transmission."Likely needs a new one of those as well."an exhaust leak"Add an exhaust to the list."an inaccurate speedo."Wow and TMU to boot!These days five to six bills isn't too horrible but this example could turn into a headache really quick due to parts availability. The right buyer for this is a small time tradesman, the HVAC guy who was just leaving my house is rolling a late P80 Volvo 850 sedan in manual which he treats like a truck. Said he'd love a wagon if he ever came across one... if you're local to Coldwater Michigan this is a nice work beater. Annual inspection/registration tax probably costs nearly as much as the car.
  • 2ACL Amazing price, but that's (IMO) a reflection of the interest in an old 2.0T repmobile made interesting only by being a wagon. The Epsilon 9-3 was a sanitized take on the Saab formula. That's not to say it lacks interesting variants, but this isn't one of them. If it had a stick, maybe. But this generation's automatics are sealed and known to become temperamental if not serviced. If the owner can't provide proof of regular servicing, run.
  • Tassos The 3 lt turbodiesel should be FAR, FAR more efficient than the 6.2. ANything that walks would be more efficient than the 6.2. Are you kidding me?The 3 lt turbodiesel in my 4,000 lb+, 208 HP, 400+ LBFT E320 Bluetecs is more efficient than even the 2.2 lt ICE with its meager 125 HP in my 1990, only 2,822 lbs, Accord Coupe 5 speed LX. 100%. I have the full detailed records to prove it beyond any doubt. I consistently get over 35 MPG HWY, which I never got with the Accord (usuallt 32-33 tops)The big question is, will GM ask $5k more for the diesel than for the gas version, as usual? Mercedes only asked $1k m ore for the diesel, $51k vs $50k for the gas back then, which you would recover in just ONE YEAR of average miles driven.
  • Cprescott Lucid has the right idea about building cars - I agree that these have a presence to them and certainly make all Teslas look like cheap golf carts with doors in comparison. I hope Lucid survives because they actually build luxurious products and not pretenders like Tesla.