We’ve looked at other underused GM plants in the United States before, but experts have weighed in on how production workers should feel as GM prepares to idle and potentially close two production plants in the country.
The Detroit Free Press reported Tuesday that two plants, in particular, should be on a watch list as they operate far below the industry safety mark of 80 percent utilization. The two plants are the Lake Orion, Michigan, and Fairfax, Kansas, plants. Although, the Lansing Grand River facility is also incredibly underused, too. But, GM has just invested millions of dollars to build the Cadillac ATS and CTS replacements at the plant.
The investment isn’t enough to actually support job creation, though. Lansing Grand River lost its third shift last year, which saw 500 jobs cut due to slow Camaro sales. In January, the plant will drop to just one shift. It operates at 33 percent utilization.
At Lake Orion, workers assemble the Chevrolet Sonic—which has been rumored to be on its way out—and the Chevrolet Bolt EV. It also builds Cruise Automation self-driving car prototypes. While it does have specialization for electric cars, analysts said the plant needs something else to make it sustainable since it’s such a massive facility. It operates at 34 percent utilization currently. The plant used to build other small cars, such as the Buick Verano.
Finally, the Fairfax plant in Kansas was the second plant on analysts watch lists. Although it’s the most utilized of the other plants (48 percent), the fact it builds the Chevrolet Malibu is concerning to industry observers. Malibu sales are down 45.8 percent year-over-year through the third quarter of 2018. The plant received a lifeline when it was awarded production of the Cadillac XT4 crossover, however.
Bowling Green is the least likely to close as it churns out the Corvette and associated models. Although its incredibly underused at just 27 percent, its specialty status marks it much safer.
It’s unlikely GM would announce more plant closures ahead of United Auto Worker negotiations next year, but the plants will be watched closely as the automaker continues to restructure.