* Current-generation Camaro output to stay in Canada
* GM to consolidate rear-wheel-drive assembly in Lansing
* No word on how move will affect jobs in Oshawa, Canada
* GM Canada, union signed new labor contract in the fall
By Allison Martell
Dec 19 General Motors Co will produce the
next generation of Chevrolet Camaro in Lansing, Michigan, not
at the plant in Oshawa, Ontario, where it currently assembles
the sports car, the company said on Wednesday.
While the move is a fresh setback for workers at GM's Oshawa
operation, where employment has dwindled over the last decade,
it's a win for Michigan's hard-hit auto sector.
The Canadian Auto Workers union said the Camaro accournts
for 25 percent to 30 percent of GM Oshawa's current production.
At a press conference, Local 222 President Chris Buckley
estimated the move could affect 1,000 jobs at the plant, along
with an unknown number of positions at parts suppliers.
There are just over 8,000 unionized GM workers in Canada,
including more than 4,000 in Oshawa.
"It's too early to accurately predict what any employment
impact might be," said GM Canada spokeswoman Faye Roberts during
a call with reporters.
Roberts said the decision was a matter of improving
efficiency and reducing capital investment. The Camaro is the
only rear-wheel-drive vehicle built in Oshawa, and the move will
consolidate rear-wheel-drive assembly at the Lansing Grand River
plant, which already produces rear-wheel-drive Cadillacs.
GM has not said when it will launch the new Camaro, but an
industry source familiar with the company's plans said the
current model is expected to remain in production in Oshawa
The next-generation Camaro, due in early 2016, is expected
to share its underpinnings with the Cadillac ATS, so the same
line in Lansing could assemble both models, the source said.
Kristin Dziczek, director of labor and industry at the
Center for Automotive Research, said labor costs may also have
played a role. In the United States, new hires make a lower wage
than their veteran unionized peers.
"There's a considerable number of entry-level people and a
lot of the older workers have already retired or taken
retirement incentives," said Dziczek of GM's U.S. workforce.
There is no permanent lower wage tier in Canada. In their
current contract, negotiated in the fall, the Canadian Auto
Workers union agreed to a longer "earn-in" - the time it takes
to reach the top of the pay scale - and concessions on benefits
for new workers. But with no new hires on the horizon, those
changes will not reduce costs any time soon.
Dziczek said the relatively strong Canadian dollar, which
has dragged on the broader Canadian manufacturing sector, was
another issue: "The loonie at par is a big factor in this."
But union leaders said GM management had assured them in
writing that the new contract would not discourage future
The news comes just over a week after Michigan enacted a ban
on mandatory union membership. The "right to work" legislation
was a blow to organized labor in the state.
But Dziczek said she did not see the new law driving the
Camaro decision, as union membership is still very high at GM
plants in other right to work states.
UNION TAKEN BY SURPRISE
Union leaders said they were shocked by the news, and
particularly frustrated because their members made concessions
in 2006 to bring the Camaro to Oshawa in the first place.
"Frustrated is an understatement," said National President
Ken Lewenza. "We are outraged by this decision."
The current generation Camaro will remain at Oshawa's "flex"
line, which is still set to gain a third shift as GM works
towards a 2013 launch for the new Chevrolet Impala.
The latest contract for GM Canada workers came with the
promise of new shifts and an extended life for the
"consolidated" assembly line in Oshawa to 2014. When the deal
was announced, union leaders said they expected that no one with
seniority would be on layoff at GM by the end of the contract.
Separately on Wednesday, GM said it would buy back 200
million of its shares from the U.S. Treasury, and the U.S.
government plans to sell its remaining stake within 15 months.
GM shares jumped 7.8 percent to $27.50 in New York trading