The last vehicle rolled off the production line at General Motors’ Oshawa Assembly plant on Wednesday, marking the end of over a century of vehicle manufacturing in the southern Ontario town.
Oshawa Assembly built the Chevrolet Impala and the Cadillac XTS, the latter of which ended production in early October. It also completed final assembly on the previous-generation Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups, which are sold alongside the new T1 generation Chevy and GMC trucks as a cheaper alternative. Workers remained building the Silverado and Sierra throughout December, with the last vehicle to roll off the line being a Sierra.
The assembly plant was one of the largest employers in the Oshawa region, with over 2,600 people working there before GM made the decision to close the plant. At its peak, Oshawa Assembly employed as many as 23,000 people and was among the largest automotive factories in Canada. Many workers employed there are second or third-generation GM employees, as well, or have other family members who work at the plant.
“I am a third generation autoworker and I have seen a lot of vehicles roll off the lines. I never thought I would see the final vehicle,” GM worker Mike Mutimer told local Toronto publication CP24. “It wasn’t a celebration. There were people cheering, we have a lot of retirees and I get that, but it just wasn’t a happy day for many of us.”
“I am going to miss it,” said another worker, Al Nice, who worked at Oshawa Assembly since 1967. “I am kind of emotional leaving because it has always been my life. It was the only place I have ever worked, as soon as I was a teenager, and it has been a great, great place to work.”
The history of Oshawa Assembly can be traced back Colonel Sam McLaughlin, whose father started the McLaughlin Carriage Company – one of the largest horse-drawn carriages manufacturers in the whole of the British Empire. McLaughlin eventually started the McLaughlin Motor Company, which used a Buick engine in its first vehicle, the 1908 Model F. McLaughlin’s cars were built at Oshawa starting in 1907, however the plant didn’t officially come under GM’s control until 1954.
GM will use a small section of the assembly plant for parts production and metal stamping, which will retain about 300 jobs. Additionally, it is currently building an advanced autonomous vehicle test track on the plant’s property, which will be used to test new autonomous safety technologies. GM says engineers embedded at the test track “will develop software and hardware for autonomous vehicle systems, embedded controls, active safety systems and infotainment,” and will support the operations at its nearby Markham and Oshawa technical centers.
It is not clear when parts stamping production will begin at Oshawa Assembly. The test track is expected to open sometime in 2020.