General Motors Co. chairman Dan Akerson has confirmed that the auto maker is considering its Spring Hill, Tenn., factory as a location for extra production of the hot-selling Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain crossovers that are now made only at a plant in Ingersoll, Ont.
But such a decision would not sit well with the Canadian Auto Workers union, which wants a plant in Oshawa, Ont., which is scheduled to be closed, to be kept open to add production capacity for the two vehicles. Mr. Akerson was quoted as by trade publication Automotive News as saying that GM wants to squeeze out more production of the Equinox and the Terrain and also the Chevrolet Cruze compact, which is made in Lordstown, Ohio.
A new labour contract recently reached between GM and the United Auto Workers union calls for the reopening of Spring Hill as a flexible operation that be an overflow plant for vehicles that are at maximum production elsewhere, but don’t justify the addition of another full assembly plant.
GM’s Cami Automotive Inc. operation in Ingersoll is running on three shifts a day plus Saturday overtime to crank out the two vehicles. GM has already boosted output of the crossovers five times and will increase the speed of the assembly line later this year to raise daily production to about 1,150 vehicles from about 1,100 now.
At the moment, it is also shipping some unfinished Equinox bodies to another GM plant in Oshawa, which does final assembly. The CAW wants to keep open that factory, which is one of two GM assembly plants in the city.
“We’re just going to have to keep arguing that the priority [for]plants is Cami, then Oshawa, then obviously Spring Hill,” CAW president Ken Lewenza said Monday.
Mr. Lewenza noted that when he met with Mr. Akerson in Oshawa this summer, the GM chairman told him that using Oshawa as an overflow plant was successful.
The CAW president said he’s seeking clarification from General Motors of Canada Ltd. about what its parent company’s plans are for Spring Hill and how they might affect the Canadian operations.
The issue of the endangered Oshawa plant and whether it can be filled with Equinox and Terrain or other GM vehicles, is likely to play a role in negotiations next summer on a new contract between the auto maker and the CAW.
In the U.S. market, which is the destination for about 85 per cent of the vehicles produced by the 2,700 employees at Cami, sales of Equinox soared 46 per cent in the first nine months of the year from the same period in 2010. Sales of Terrain surged 59 per cent in the same period.
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