With General Motors ending production at its Lordstown, Ohio plant on March 8, a group of environmentalists is asking the automaker to retool the plant for a new emission-free vehicle. The group believes that such a plan would save the save the factory and the jobs, according to the Tribune Chronicle. Trying to save jobs is admirable; however, a new emission-free vehicle is unlikely to save Lordstown for several reasons.
Such an investment retooling the factory would cost tens of millions of dollars at a time when the automaker is trying to save $6 billion by 2020. Much of these plans that will be set forth are likely already finalized, as it’s the nature of the auto industry.
The massive restructuring plan includes idling five North American factories including the Lordstown location. The other issue with such a proposal is General Motors doesn’t have a new emission-free vehicle to produce at the factory—and it takes years to take a car form an idea to production. There’s no way GM could develop a new car for Lordstown in a meaningful timeframe.
Another part of GM’s restructuring included discontinuing the Chevrolet Volt—a green car—due to low demand. Consumers are flocking to crossovers, SUVs, and trucks, and abandoning sedans at the expense of domestic automaker sales volume, which is also why the Cruze is going away in the first place. Cheap fuel prices and an abundance of credit is making it easier for consumers to buy into larger vehicles without worrying about the prices at the pump eating into monthly budgets.
It doesn’t help the environmentalists’ case that Lordstown employees are already securing transfers to openings at other GM plants. As of last month, 372 Lordstown employees secured transfers to GM’s Spring Hill Assembly, Toledo Transmission, Fort Wayne Assembly, and Bedford Powertrain factories. However, the UAW has filed a lawsuit against GM, alleging the company violated its agreement, in hopes of keeping Lordstown and two other factories opened temporarily.
It appears that GM is committed to its plan to end its operations at Lordstown. Yet there are reports that the automaker is actively looking for a company to take over the factory, according to Ohio Governor Mike DeWine. However, it’s unclear what kind of deal GM is seeking as the governor did not say GM is looking for someone to buy the tooling or purchase the rights to the Chevy Cruze. Instead, he said GM wants to find someone to “take over.” DeWine said GM hadn’t given any indication to the state if it would allocate a new vehicle at the factory.