Canadian Manufacturing

BREAKING: CAW says GM moving Camaro production out of Canada ‘a betrayal’

Moving production to Lansing Grande River Assembly Plant in central Michigan

OSHAWA, Ont.—General Motors is shifting production of its next-generation Chevrolet Camaro out of Canada and into Michigan.

Citing lower capital investment needs and “improved efficiencies,” the Detroit automaker announced plans to move production of the sports coupe to its Lansing Grand River (LGR) assembly facility in Lansing, Michigan.

According to GM, it will be able to consolidate the rear-wheel drive Camaro—the only RWD vehicle produced at its Oshawa, Ont., facility—with the Cadillacs ATS and CTS, which both sport the same drive platform.

An outraged Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) union president Ken Lewenza called the move a betrayal to Canada.

“This decision that was abruptly made is a betrayal of the commitment made to the Canadian government (and) to Canadian tax payers,” Lewenza said of the loss of Camaro production on Canadian soil.

According to Lewenza, his union wasn’t informed of the plan until 11 a.m. Dec. 19, the day the decision was publicly announced.

“I was totally shocked to get a phone call this morning and having this reported to me,” he said.

Lewenza claims GM executives told him the move was in the works for two weeks prior to the announcement.

The national union head said he put in calls to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty to ask the two leaders to use all their political will to “speak up for Canadian manufacturing.”

Lewenza said he also made a phone call to GM executive vice-president Timothy Lee, where he raised his union’s opposition to the Camaro removal.

“My demand to Mr. Lee was that he must sit down with the union and he must come up with a solution to this particular problem sooner than later,” he said.

One solution the CAW is tabling is a one-for-one replacement for the 100,000 vehicles annually lost without the Camaro produced in Oshawa.

“If that’s your ultimate decision,” Lewenza said of the removal, “then you must replace it with another 100,000 vehicles to make sure that our plant stays fully utilized.”

According to Lewenza, the loss represents between 25 and 30 per cent of total production in Canada each year.

The announcement was made the same day GM said it was spending $5.5-billion to buy back its own shares from the United States federal government.

Lewenza said he’s mad and doesn’t “want to overreact,” but affirmed that the CAW needs to make an “aggressive response” to the situation.

During his rant, Lewenza referred to something he called automakers “systematically pulling production out of Canada.”

In terms of supply chain, Lewenza said the announcement also affects auto parts manufacturers who depend on the Camaro.

“This has a significant reduction in the number of jobs in the auto parts sector,” Lewenza said. “There (are) many auto parts suppliers that rely solely on sourcing to the Camaro product, so this is really about thousands of jobs in our community.”

GM did not specify how Canadian auto parts suppliers play into the plans to move production of the Camaro to Michigan.

When asked about how or if the move plays into Michigan’s recent change to a right-to-work state, Lewenza shot down speculation based on the fact he was informed internal talks about the removal of the Camaro date back at least a couple of weeks.

The so-called right-to-work bills were signed into law Dec. 13.

Lewenza said Camaro production won’t be taken out of Canada until calendar year 2015.

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