By on December 4, 2018

Oshawa Assembly, Image: General Motors

Despite ongoing turmoil in the country’s oilpatch, with the government of Alberta paying to have white Dodge Durango R/T SUVs project a constantly updating tally of money lost due to discounted Canadian oil prices onto the sides of downtown Ottawa buildings, the big economic story north of the border remains General Motors.

After squashing rumors of a plant closure during the last round of union bargaining, the automaker announced late last month that the city of Oshawa, Ontario’s worst fears would indeed come true. Oshawa Assembly will close by the end of 2019, leaving some 2,500 GM workers out of a job.

It’s not the kind of situation a newly minted company president wants to preside over, but that’s the plate Travis Hester was handed from the bigwigs in the Renaissance Center.

Hester’s predecessor, if you’ll remember, took off in April to head GM’s Cadillac division. That leaves the new prez to tell the employees of a historic auto plant that opened in 1907 — as well as their union — that product will dry up by December 2019.

The product side of things was well known, as no new promises came down from head office after GM’s decision to perform final assembly of some full-size pickups there. It looked like a stopgap measure following the 2016 bargaining process, and we can now see it for what it was. Meanwhile, the plant has bled product for years. The Cadillac XTS disappears soon from GM Canada’s lakeside facility, as will the Chevrolet Impala. Both models are being discontinued as part of a broader series of cuts that also impact two U.S. assembly plants and two transmission facilities.

Speaking to CBC, Hester said GM isn’t pulling up stakes. Jobs will continue to be created in Ontario, just not at the Oshawa plant. Rabble rousing by Jerry Dias, president of Canadian autoworkers’ union Unifor, and fiery statements from political representatives will not sway the decision, either.

“So it’s very difficult to have a discussion on anything beyond December 2019 because there isn’t anything to build,” he said of the plant, adding that he’s made it “very clear” to Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that “we don’t have any allocation.”

The same situation faces workers at the Detroit-Hamtramck facility, home of the Impala, Buick LaCrosse, and Chevrolet Volt, as well as the Chevrolet Cruze plant in Lordstown, Ohio. Hester said the company plans to fulfill its promise to hire nearly 1,000 workers at GM’s Canadian Technical Center in Markham, Ontario, which opened early last year. Another 500 jobs should be created there by 2020, he said.

“We’re adding jobs and we’re adding development expertise and all the associated things that go with that into Canada, where it just simply wasn’t in the past,” Hester said. “We see the future very strong here and in Canada for the development side.”

That doesn’t help line workers who lack the skills needed to serve as the brains behind GM’s much-publicized push for electric and autonomous vehicles.

Speaking after the closure announcement, Premier Ford said a government-funded training program would provide some measure of assistance to workers. “As a first step, I will be authorizing Employment Ontario to deploy its Rapid Re-Employment and Training Services program to provide impacted local workers with targeted local training and jobs services to help them regain employment as quickly as possible,” he said. “We are looking at how best to align our programs to ensure maximum support is available for affected employees and their families. In speaking with GM, we have stressed the importance of supporting their employees through this difficult transition.”

Dias, who loathes Ford and spent much of the past several months in the orbit of the Canadian government’s NAFTA renegotiation team (before kicking off a campaign against Trudeau’s Conservative opponent in the upcoming federal election), vows to fight this seemingly unforeseen closure.

“There’s not going to be any discussions with General Motors about what this orderly wind down looks like as it will be anything but orderly,” Dias said last week.

South of the border, UAW leadership is also prepping for a fight. The union claims GM is reneging on its promise to hold off on any plant closures until 2020. Unifor’s piggybacking on this claim.

“We’ve seen that document, and we don’t believe the document states we can’t do that,” Hester said Monday, ahead of talks with the union.

[Images: General Motors]

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59 Comments on “‘There Isn’t Anything to Build’: GM Canada Prez Opens Up About Oshawa Assembly Closure...”


  • avatar

    the incompetent nitwits atop GM refuse to change their horrific, idiot, brand destroying, distress marketing.

    as I said years ago, if management can’t sell Pontiacs, you don’t get rid of Pontiac, you get rid of management.

    these people are so entrenched and so bad that the entire company and county suffer from a lack of accountability by the bankster controlled board.

    • 0 avatar
      cicero1

      this last weekend the nfl games were filled with Chevy employee discount for everyone ads, with children say “my mom works for Chevy.” Not sure who thought this was a good idea, but I hope they at least made sure the “real employees” in the ad were not being laid off.

      • 0 avatar

        on Thanksgiving I sawa GMC Denali ad that looked good until they flashed $12,179 at the end. thought it was the price, it was the discount.

        the numbskulls at GM don’t sell cars, they sell deals. and do it all wrong!

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          Often those “discount” deals also specify that the buyer MUST finance through GM. This doesn’t help the cash-buyer because the discount does not apply to cash deals.

          Plenty of people choose to buy cash OR finance with their own bank or credit union. In those cases the discount does not apply.

        • 0 avatar
          Peter Gazis

          Buickman

          Really?
          In 2018 you thought you could purchase a Sierra Denali for $12K.

          Why don’t you get back under your bridge Troll. Come back when you have something intelligent to say.

          • 0 avatar

            you missed the point, revealing your lack of intelligence and sense of humor. besides that, show some respect and stay in the shallow end punk.

          • 0 avatar
            Peter Gazis

            Buickman

            Wow! Nothing but insults. I take it that means you are completely clueless on how much a Sierra Denali actually costs. And I thought there maybe 1 working brain cell behind all the GM bashing. I was wrong.

    • 0 avatar

      No one could sell Pontiacs, how it is even possible? I mean how anyone could choose Pontiac if there is a Mazda?

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    “Despite ongoing turmoil in the country’s oilpatch, with the government of Alberta paying to have white Dodge Durango R/T SUVs project a constantly updating tally…a’

    Those Durangos are about 1,800% better than ANY SUV Guangzhou-Guadalajara (GM) makes, in every possible way, at a much lower price.

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      For decades the cheaper Canadian dollar and tax paid provincial healthcare made Canada auto workers lower cost vs US. What changed?

    • 0 avatar
      ttiguy

      Why were you fired by GM deadweight?? Answer the question you pansy!

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      LOL!!! “SportyAccord!” O.M.G. amiright? LOLROFLOLCOPTER!!!

      I’m a true genius, with an incredibly accurate predictive capability. You are a lingerer hanger-on-er with no original thoughts and the personality of mashed potatoes.

      From Cadillac to Guangzhou-Guadalajara Motors (GM), to Ford/Lincoln, Volvo and Acura, to many other predictions on trends on sales volume, design, marketing fail and product quality fail of manufacturers, and the (in)comptetence of CEOs, division presidents or high-ranking execs such as Hackett, Farley, Barra, Ammann, JdN, et al., I’ve nailed more predictions and with such precise details than any other person on earth (on the successful automaker meter, I also nailed Audi, Jeep/RAM, and Subaru), and it’s simply remarkable and incredibly notable.

      The dynamic duo of John93Taurus98Tempo2003KiaAmanti4UberService300postsPerDay and Sporty4CylinderFWDAccordbutHasMovedOnToEitherALincolnOrSomeInfinitiMonstronsity will tell the B&B how my incredibly accurate predictions on such a wide range of matters, made over the course of 7 years now, were “so obvious to anyone!” (even though they took the opposite side of most of my predictions most of the time).

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    The oil story should be the bigger story, that’s what’s been paying the bills in Canada for decades. The plant closing is sad, but it’s not a structural situation like relying on oil revenue while blithely ignoring the industry, or outright obstructing it, until you’ve beggared it down to selling for $10-15 per barrel. Where is your transfer payments god now?

    • 0 avatar

      How it resembles Russia! It is not even funny.

    • 0 avatar
      Tele Vision

      The oil story IS the bigger story. Alberta, and therefore Canada, is losing 2.5 effing GM plants A DAY with the pipeline dearth. Yet we Albertans get to pay transfer payments to the Eastern bums and creeps.

      • 0 avatar
        Add Lightness

        The Alberta Government saw the oil issue coming 11 years ago but did nothing except expand crude production and not promote the construction of value added refineries. The Alberta Government of the day made the bed and now the current populace has to lie in it.
        Making comparisons with Norway is arguably cruel because it is so sad and it’s too late to implement.

        http://www.andrewnikiforuk.com/Dirty_Oil_PDFs/BitumenPriceReview07.pdf

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          @Add Lightness – Correct! where did the Heritage fund go?

          Blaming Eastern bums for political mismanagement in Alberta makes ZERO sense.

          • 0 avatar
            saskp

            Since the Heritage Fund has been mentioned… I just can’t see how a province could ever keep a large savings fund without creating a national crisis in our confederation system.

            Provinces get penalized by the federal government via transfers if they produce and save too much. As it is, Alberta has been the largest net contributor of federal taxes for decades and it’d be much worse if they were saving too much money.

            It’d probably spark a large secession movement, not to mention the resentment in other provinces that’d need to run deficits to provide services at times while Alberta got to receive federal funding while being able to save billions.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        @TeleVesion: Nearly 40 years ago the Canadian government made a deal to ensure that Alberta Crude had a guaranteed market, guaranteed production levels and at a guaranteed profitable price. It was called the National Energy Program.

        However Albertan ‘free market capitalists’ complained that they wanted to be able to sell their crude on the free market and rely on market prices.

        So what happens whenever the market price tumbles? They guy cap in hand crying to the government for intervention and help. Just like today when the Alberta government announced a restriction on production. Nothing like state run production numbers to remind us of the Soviet Union.

        The governments of Alberta have been imbecilic for decades. If they had emulated the government of Norway’s program they would literally have trillions of dollars invested.

        • 0 avatar
          ToddAtlasF1

          Thank God they didn’t. Norway’s funds may do all the harm in the world as it is.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            @Todd: please elaborate/explain. I believe that currently the Norwegian government’s petroleum funds represent the largest single investor in the world’s stock markets. So how “may they do all the harm in the world”?

        • 0 avatar
          Lightspeed

          Norway’s tax regime wouldn’t have flown in Canada, let alone Alberta. But, the “Heritage Fund” has been a colossal failure of vision and practice, no matter the good intentions. When you think of the hundreds of thousands of billions of dollars that have gone through Alberta, either as investment or revenues, it’s apparent we gave the farm away.

  • avatar
    RedRocket

    Realities of the world don’t seem to matter with auto union chieftains, or to DW either. He, maybe there’s a job he could do?

  • avatar

    Coming soon.

    GM deathwatch 2
    “Driven to the morgue”

  • avatar
    JoDa

    “Rabble rousing by Jerry Dias, president of Canadian autoworkers’ union Unifor, and fiery statements from political representatives will not sway the decision, either”

    It just reinforces the decision.

    Just go on welfare. Canadian taxpayers won’t care.

  • avatar
    craiger

    GM makes good stuff these days. The company would be doing much better than it is doing, if the average car buyer knew anything about cars.

    The flip side is also true. In the 1980s when GM was selling quite possibly the worst cars on the market (except maybe for Chrysler) GM still had 50% market share, because…the average car buyer doesn’t know anything about cars.

    Everyone on TTAC knows this is true.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      “…the average car buyer doesn’t know anything about cars…”

      If they knew better, they’d buy even LESS cars from GM. But on average, GM cars are just average.

      In the ’80s, GM cars were average also, not the worst as you claim, and they definitely had some shining moments, but over all, what’s really changed?

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        What is sad is that some GM buyers paid with their lives for the error of their ways in buying a GM vehicle.

        Plenty of precedence exists.

        • 0 avatar
          mikey

          HDW …Usually you and i are on the same page.. GM barely used Takata air bags ..

          .Honda, Toyota, Ford, BMW etc . How many folks received a face full of shrapnel ?

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            mikey, I didn’t have any specific examples in mind and Takata was not what I was thinking off. There were plenty of law suits brought against GM in the US over the period 1962 (when I got my first license) and today. Some of those law suits blamed GM for the deaths involved.

            Takata remains bad. It’s an example of how a once-proud manufacturer adopted the Western ways of cutting corners and lack of quality control in production methods. And it caught up with them.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        80s GMs were not average. They were so bad, they had to partner up with Toyota to be taught how to design and make cars again.

        • 0 avatar
          Carlson Fan

          “80s GMs were not average. They were so bad, they had to partner up with Toyota to be taught how to design and make cars again.”

          Sorry, not a Honda or Toy made in 1981 I would have traded for my Cutlass Supreme Brougham w/260 V8. Awesome car. I remember the guy at the Toyota dealership looked a little sheepish when I told him the brand new 1993 PU I was buying from him better run as good as that Olds Cutlass when it has 197K miles on it!……LOL

          • 0 avatar
            Dave M.

            Interesting. I couldn’t ditch my ’79 Trans-Am Turbo fast enough after 2 years of a third of its time at the dealer. I bought a Toyota Celica. Kept it 10 years with minimal fuss.

            GM lost millions of customers in the ’70s and ’80s. No need to go back.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Shocking, recalling better ’80s cars than GM isn’t too hard, but were Ford and Dodge/Chrysler/Plymouth/Jeep/Eagle cars that much better? Worse in many cases?

            Ya forget about French, Italian, English, German, Korean Yugoslavian, etc, cars?

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            DaveM – how could you have a turbo Trans Am in 1979 when they were first introduced in 1980?

          • 0 avatar
            dividebytube

            I like a lot of GM products from the 80s – provided it was a G-body or a B-Body ;)

            Easy to work on, fairly reliable because it was essentially a car from the 1960s shrunk down a bit.

            Of course by the time I was done my Monte Carlo and Malibu wagon no longer had the Quadrajet or a computer.

    • 0 avatar
      Erikstrawn

      “GM makes good stuff these days. The company would be doing much better than it is doing, if the average car buyer knew anything about cars.”

      That’s what they were saying ten years ago when GM went bankrupt. That’s what they were saying when my coworker bought a GMC Terrain. He fixed the transmission a second time and ditched that POS for a Nissan Titan.

      There’s a reason GMs have terrible resale, and it’s the same reason GM can’t find repeat buyers. Too many people have been burned by GM’s lack of long-term reliability. The GMs that do last have a reputation of “running bad longer than most cars run”. I have a GMT400 Suburban, and it’s one of the biggest POSs I’ve owned, but it runs. I bought it used at half what other trucks of the same age were selling for. There’s GM’s problem. People will only buy GM at a steep discount because they’ve been burned too many times before.

  • avatar
    Spike_in_Brisbane

    GM used to vie for the position as world’s largest company as it made and sold cars all over the planet through its subsidiaries – Opel, Vauxhall, Holden, Saab, Daewoo etc. Now that these are all gone and it just makes a few domestic trucks, what is its future?

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    You win!
    Alex–the question is who is the next owner of GM?
    Contestant– the answer is who is China.

  • avatar
    marmot

    Not squashing. Quashing.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    GM is a seditious, taxpayer-teat sucking, massively inefficiently and grossly incompetently run monstrosity that never should have been bailed out, and deserved to die a quick and painful death, a long time ago.

    The Cadillac XT4, a cheaply built, poorly assembled, laughably overpriced Equinox re-badge (Roger Smith re-animator style) is my new Cadillac ATS symbolic replacement of much (but not nearly everything; that would require a 50,000+ word analysis) of what is wrong with Mary Barra-led Guangzhou-Guadalajara Motors.

    GM Deathwatch Part Deux is on deck; this time, there won’t be a forced taxpayer-funded resurrection.

    Good riddance, our own British Leyland.

    p.s. -‘Sweet interiors on those new pickup trucks, lovely GM True Employee Pricing 4 All promotion, awesome front end aesthetic on that new Silverado HD Still of lowest bidder Chinese parts), and bang up job on killing the “technological marvel” that was the Cadillac CT6 (as I predicted would happen) in 3 years from launch (2 years, in reality).

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      DW, GM died once and was bailed out and nationalized. The precedence has been set.

      When it comes to that point, the US taxpayers will once again rescue and bail out GM with the full faith and credit of the United States of America, no matter who is in the White House or who runs the Hill.

      It ain’t fair. But if push comes to shove, GM will be bailed out again. GM mgt knows this and that’s why they can be so brazen in their restructuring strategy.

  • avatar
    civicjohn

    So who’s gonna pick up the slack for all of the GM SUVs for the Federal Government?

  • avatar
    craiger

    I don’t want to be that guy, but I’m going to be that guy.

    It’s not precedence. It’s precedent.

  • avatar
    craiger

    As for 80s cars, I didn’t care for Ford’s styling, but from what I could gather from the ownership experiences of my friends and acquaintances, Fords weren’t in the shop nearly as much as GM. I’m thinking of the T-Bird/Cougar, Taurus/Sable (nice cars), and the Tempo/Topaz. And the Fox and Panther. Obviously what I’m saying here is 100% anecdotal.

    I can’t speak for reliability because I don’t remember specific details like that, but the Chrysler Ks were depressing designs. I remember my dad had one. The paint actually came off when I hand washed it. It was a wretched car to sit in, because the interior screamed cheap. Still, it wasn’t in the shop much at all. Unlike my ’84 Camaro, which racked up warranty repairs more than half of the purchase price. In those days, 12 month/12,000 miles was the standard warranty. Fortunately I purchased the extended warranty from GM, which I think was 4/48.

    I don’t see how anyone could say that GM cars were average. Japanese cars were far better. Maybe not the interiors, but in overall reliability. As for European makes, the fit and finish was way better. Remember the MBs, BMWs, and Porsches from those days?

  • avatar
    craiger

    As for GM today, I’d say they’re above average. Camaro? Corvette? CTS and ATS? All excellent. Impala/LaCrosse/XTS? Really nice. Malibu? Not bad at all, nicer than a Camry, maybe not as nice as a Mazda 6. I wouldn’t mind having a Regal. The pickups are terrific. The 2nd gen Volt is pretty good.

    GM makes some nice stuff. They are not making crap. Ford is good too. Chrysler…ehh. They’re not bad, just kind of boring.

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