Told Ya So: Oshawa Demands EV Production

Last week’s General Motors announcement in Oshawa, Ontario felt like an olive branch being extended to the worried community, but workers and the city itself are now asking for the full meal.

The threatened Oshawa Car Assembly plant has no mandate to produce vehicles beyond 2017, and the announcement of 700 high-tech engineering jobs scattered around southern Ontario (and some in the north) didn’t do anything to calm fears of its impending closure.

Now, Oshawa is asking GM CEO Mary Barra to visit the city and meet with stakeholders. According to its city council, if the future is going to be electric, they want those vehicle built locally.

The plant recently lost 1,000 jobs when production of the Chevrolet Camaro moved to Lansing, Michigan, with 2,500 more hanging in the balance if all assembly lines shut down.

GM’s June 10 jobs promise concerned software development for autonomous vehicles and infotainment systems, some of which will come from Oshawa’s engineering center. But Oshawa wants to hear about replacement vehicles for the Chevrolet Equinox, Chevrolet Impala, Buick Regal and Cadillac XTS.

The workers’ union, Unifor, has threatened to strike if a commitment isn’t made. Contract negotiations begin in late summer, and are expected to be tense.

Councillor Nancy Diamond, quoted in the Oshawa Express, said “(GM’s) presentation actually caused me great concern.” She called on the city to send a message to the automaker.

“Don’t count us out just because a new economy means a different kind of car,” said Diamond.

Council ultimately passed a motion calling on GM to bring electric vehicle production to the Oshawa plant, and for Barra to come meet with them, the workers, and certain political leaders. GM’s Chevrolet Volt and upcoming 2017 Bolt are both produced in Michigan, so any new electric product would likely come with a lengthy wait.

Unifor president Jerry Dias, who was cautiously optimistic in the wake of last week’s announcement, tried to calm fears.

“We lost the Camaro, the truck plant closed several years ago, so people have the right to be nervous, but we are absolutely determined that we are going to find a solution,” Dias told Metroland Media.

The Oshawa plant began producing Chevrolets in 1907, a decade before the company became part of GM.

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