By on March 1, 2017


A bill for the assembly of two decades-old models — one from a defunct marque — will come due on April 1. And unlike much of the debts written off during General Motors’ bankruptcy, a major subsidiary now has to pay this chunk back.

The money, $220 million in all, was handed to GM Canada back in 1987 to save the Montreal-area Sainte-Thérèse Assembly plant. GM Canada used that bankroll to build the stunningly sexy Chevrolet Celebrity and Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera. It later cranked out the last Pontiac Firebirds and fourth-generation Chevrolet Camaros.

The thing about 30-year interest-free loans is that someone eventually comes to collect.

Unlike its parent company, outstanding loans held by GM Canada prior to 2009 are still active. During GM’s bankruptcy, its Canadian division slashed its workforce and dealer network in a desperate effort to reduce costs. Things improved, but media north of the border soon began asking questions about taxpayer cash handed out long ago.

GM Canada still intended to repay the $220 million offered up by the Canadian and Quebec government, the company said in 2011. The plant, of course, no longer existed, having been torn down and the land since turned into a big-box retail mall.

Sainte-Thérèse Assembly opened in 1965, building Chevrolet Biscaynes before moving on to H- and G-body vehicles in the 1970s and ’80s. When poor quality and labor strife threatened to shutter the facility, the federal and provincial government intervened. Each offered $110 million. It was then decided the plant should be retooled to build Chevrolet Celebrity and Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera models. After that, another reprieve — Camaro and Firebird production ran from 1993 to 2002.

After that, GM left Quebec.

Following the most recent round of labor negotiations, GM pledged $554 million for its Canadian operations. While the possibility of government cash arose, last month GM said it wasn’t necessary for the projects it had in mind. While discussing the matter with the Globe and Mail, GM Canada president Stephen Carlisle claimed the company would indeed pay back the loan on its due date — April 1, 2017.

The payment comes at an opportune time for Canada, which just pledged an interest-free loan to another crucial Montreal-area business apparently in need of propping up.

(While editing this piece, Steph asked, “Oh, can you add the adjective ‘stunningly sexy’ before the first mention of Cutlass Ciera?” I was happy to oblige. —Mark)

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31 Comments on “Government Never Forgets: GM to Pay Back Cash that Funded Celebrity, Cutlass Ciera Production...”

  • avatar

    Zut alors!

  • avatar

    For some strange reason, I kind of actually liked the styling of the two-door Ciera. I’d DD that one in the pic…

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Possibly the novelty? I’ve never seen one before. Didn’t know you could still get a 2-door on the refreshed body.

      • 0 avatar

        The Ciera and Century coupes were actually refreshed before the sedans, in 1986. The Ciera lasted through 1991, but the Century coupe stuck around through 1994.

        The Celebrity and 6000 coupes were never refreshed; when the 1989 sedan refresh came, they were just dropped entirely.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      I’d rather it be the sky blue of the 4-door I had. That brown is depressing and viscerally 1980s the way orange-and-brown plaid sofas are.

      • 0 avatar

        Not a good DD choice. Those things behave about as well in a crash as a wet paper towel.

        • 0 avatar

          You could do worse. I used to ride to the bus stop in one, it wasn’t bad. I preferred her 1994 Ciera to the 1st gen Lumina as far as styling.

          I’ve always wanted to build a sleeper out of a Pontiac 6000. 3800, maybe supercharged, from some Regal GS or Park Ave.

        • 0 avatar

          I beg to differ. My wife (wearing 3-point seat belt) and daughter (then 3 yrs old in a GM Loveseat) in an 86 Celeb were involved in a collision with a full size Mercury with both cars totalled and heavy front end damage to both. They walked away with minor injuries.

          • 0 avatar

            @indi500fan, without knowing exactly what speed your wife’s car and the Mercury were going at the moment of impact, it’s hard to make a broad statement about the car’s crashworthiness just based on the apparent front end damage. I do remember A-bodies being rated fairly well for the time, although I don’t remember if those good ratings came from crash testing or insurance data. (Insurance data usually reflects driver demographics, which is to say that vehicles that attract careful drivers generally fare well, regardless of safety engineering.)

            Either way, very good to hear that your loved ones survived in good shape, even if it was a long time ago and and even though they weren’t completely unhurt.

  • avatar

    Canada needs its silent guardian, watchful protector. And dark knight…now more than ever!

    “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”

    #RUTRTMCGA (Roll up the rim to Make Canada Great Again!)

  • avatar

    The Cutlass Cierra wasn’t an awful vehicle. Mine was comfortable and quiet. My recollection is the transmission started to behave oddly before it was driven 80,000 miles. And, I think I recall the power steering pump had to be replaced at maybe around 50,000 miles. The paint on the front bumper and hood seemed to chip easily (this I recall noticing for sure when I washed it by hand). Otherwise it was an OK car to the best of my recollection. And, the front bench seat was convenient in a couple of pinches when I needed to fit 6 folks into the vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      In a world without the 1990 Camry, Accord, and Taurus, a 1990 Cutlass Ciera was decent.

      • 0 avatar

        Mine was a 1980s era vehicle. I don’t recall for sure whether it was a 1983 or a 1984. I do remember that it had the V6, vinyl roof, and supposedly every available option. But I did also have a 1991 Pontiac 6000, which was a bit outdated compared to other available vehicles at that time.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    GM used to build those A-bodies (especially the Cutlass Ciera) here at the Oklahoma City plant.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      Also the Tarrytown, NY plant just north of NYC. It was adjacent to the hudson line rail.Then it was retooled for Dustbuster Vans. After that GM thought it was a loss leader and shut it down. Its now a riverfront park with townhouses and office space.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Interesting. They shut down the GM plant here (which was last used to manufacture the extended-wheelbase GMT3xx trucks) in February 2006; it was annexed into nearby Tinker Air Force Base.

  • avatar

    They install that TruCoat at the factory; there’s nothing we can do.

    • 0 avatar

      COTD right there. Nobody else get the “Fargo” reference?? Best part is the car WAS one of those (olds) A bodies.

      I was never a fan, but down here in SW Florida, I see them still on the road daily.

      I remember the old saying “GM cars run BAD longer than most cars run at all”..

      • 0 avatar

        I remember the old saying “GM cars run BAD longer than most cars run at all”..

        If the B&B are going to keep repeating that meme, at least get it correct.

        “GM cars run like $hit longer than most cars run at all.”

  • avatar

    When I worked at the Newport Hills, California Ralphs Grocery location, ALL the vendors (Kraft, General Mills, Heinz, etc.) drove Oldsmobile Cieras. The car maintained that fleet distinction until the new Taurus arrived and that was the beginning of the end. By the time the 1992 to 1995 Taurus was available you never saw these Oldsmobiles in fleets again.
    Only the coupes were made in Canada; otherwise 99.2% off all Oldsmobiles were indeed Made In USA!
    This style also brings fond memories of the B-body coupes like the Olds 88 (FE3!) and Buick LeSabre (especially the T-Type) which soldiered on until 1991.

  • avatar

    My dad bought a brand new 1987 Chevy Celebrity with the 2.8 V6 (built in Sainte-Thérèse) from Dan Kane Chev-Olds-Cadillac in Windsor before he went in for open heart surgery.

    He wanted a new car for his wife and kids in case something happened to him. That car was one of the crappiest cars my family ever owned. It was brand new and randomly blew fuses all the way to Florida in December of 1988. It had a long string of other random problems during its life.

    That car was eventually sold to our auto shop teacher neighbour, which was the home it really needed. My family hasn’t owned a GM product since, except for the ’95 Regal my grandmother had as her last car.

  • avatar

    My dad bought a Ciera new in 83. For it’s time, it was a good car. We never had reliability problems with it, but it did like to eat front brakes.

    Gave great gas mileage too, one highway trip we averaged 39 mpg with the 2.8 V6. Speed limit was 90 km/h which helped, but it was always an economical car to drive.

  • avatar

    I had a string of three of these Cutlass’s as company cars An 85, 88, and 90. The 88 was the same color as the coupe pictured. The 88 was the best one of all. It was outfitted with handling suspension, aluminium wheels, and the 3.8 V6. It would smoke the front tires.

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