Employees working at General Motors‘ pickup truck assembly plants in the United States are concerned about the automaker’s decision to begin producing trucks at the GM Oshawa Assembly plant in Canada.
GM announced this week that it would invest between $1 billion and $1.3 billion in the GM Oshawa Assembly plant in order to begin producing the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks there. The major investment will go towards the construction of a new body shop and flexible assembly module, along with other miscellaneous upgrades.
Rich LeTourneau, UAW plant chairman at the GM Fort Wayne Assembly plant in Indiana, told The Detroit News this week that he’s concerned about GM’s decision to begin building trucks in Oshawa, as one of the plants will likely have to be shut down if demand for the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra begins to taper.
“It’s not a concern today or tomorrow, but in the next year and a half,” LeTourneau told the newspaper. “It’s when the market is not peaking anymore. I know how this works when you have too many plants budgeted the same. There has to be a volume reduction somewhere. Where does that hit?”
The GM Fort Wayne Assembly plant is the only place that the light-duty versions of the popular Silverado and Sierra trucks are built. GM has had trouble fulfilling customer demand for the trucks since introducing the redesigned versions for the 2019 model year, forcing it to seek out a second production site. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the issue, as well, with GM forced to shut down many of its plants as demand for the trucks remained high. The headaches remained even after its plants reopened in late May, with GM experiencing a high degree of worker absenteeism at many of its American facilities.
Jerry Dias, president of the Canadian labor union that represents workers at Oshawa Assembly, said the pandemic sent GM searching for ways to increase pickup truck production without having to shut down Fort Wayne Assembly for upgrades that would increase its hourly production capacity.
“Showrooms are sitting at less than 50% of what they would like to be,” Dias said. “The pandemic has thrown a curve into the auto industry, so they are looking for opportunities to maximize the capacity.”
Production of the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra is expected to begin at Oshawa Assembly sometime next year. The investment is still subject to the ratification of the tentative agreement between GM and Canadian labor union Unifor.