FLINT, MI – General Motors President Mark Reuss dismisses the notion blowback from the automaker’s decision to cease production at five manufacturing sites in the U.S. and Canada, while adding vehicles to facilities in Mexico, will adversely affect the launch of important new products this year.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about our products and the desirability of our products,” Reuss tells Wards on the sidelines of the reveal of one those vehicles, the redesigned 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD and 3500HD pickups. “We’ve got great launches and great products.”
GM says it has placed or identified opportunities for 2,700 of the 2,800 U.S. hourly workers affected by the production decisions. Of the 2,800 hourly employees, roughly 1,200 people are eligible for retirement.
GM announced plans last year to idle the five sites, which includes major assembly plants in Detroit and Lordstown, OH, as well as an Oshawa, ON, Canada, facility that has been playing a diminishing role in recent years. A transmission plant in Warren, MI, and a transmission and electric-motor maker in Baltimore also will go dark. On top of an expected 4,000 white-collar cutbacks, more than 14,000 people will be affected.
The decision comes as GM girds its business for a potential downturn in vehicle sales after years of record annual deliveries and a shift in traditional transportation to new forms of mobility, such as autonomous cars and on-demand rides.
But at the same time, the automaker is booking big profits and filling assembly plants in Mexico with new products, including popular light-duty pickups and crossovers. The highly anticipated Chevy Blazer, which occupies the fast-growing 2-row midsize CUV segment and is built in Ramos Arizpe, Coahuila, Mexico, has become a particular lightning rod for critics.
The Canadian auto workers union, Unifor, launched a television campaign criticizing the automaker’s manufacturing footprint and called for a boycott of its products. The UAW and President Trump also have been critical of the decisions.
Directly addressing Unifor’s criticism, Reuss notes GM has invested $100 billion in Canadian manufacturing since 2009 and $8 billion in pensions over the same period, while work such as stamping production continues in the country.
“A lot of the stampings that come out of Canadian plants go into Mexican factories that (ship) vehicles all over the world,” he adds. “This is a global business.”
Reuss makes a point of calling the idled plants unallocated rather than closed but makes no promise they will receive fresh product once output of current vehicles ceases.
“We’re looking at every opportunity to make those facilities useful,” he says.
In addition to the Chevy and GMC heavy duty pickups and Blazer, the automaker is in the middle of its important light-duty pickup launch, while its profitable large SUVs come next year and its Cadillac luxury unit is receiving an all-new portfolio.