Eric Atkins, The Globe and Mail
November 5th, 2020

General Motors Co. will reopen its vehicle assembly plant in Oshawa, Ont., to meet rising demand for pickup trucks, spending as much as $1.3-billion to retool the factory it closed last year.

The first vehicles, GM’s best-selling GMC Sierras and Chevrolet Silverado pickup trucks, will roll off the line at the plant east of Toronto in 14 months, employing as many as 2,300 people beginning next summer, said Jerry Dias, national president of the Unifor union.

GM closed the Oshawa assembly line last year, putting about 3,000 people out of work as the car maker shut down other plants in the United States and stopped making poorly selling vehicles in a push toward hybrid and electric models. The sprawling Oshawa site has remained largely empty, making after-market car parts and pandemic face masks with 300 workers.

The company said its new models of pickups are highly popular now, and refitting the plant to make more of the trucks will help it meet the increase in demand.

“We never gave up hope and neither did General Motors,” Mr. Dias said. “I know many of our members have suffered. Many have moved on. Many have not found new jobs. So today is an incredible victory for all of us.”

Most of the money will come from GM, Mr. Dias said, and there are talks with the federal and Ontario governments about taxpayer contributions similar to those announced recently for Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler’s Ontario plants.

Flavio Volpe, head of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association, credited the new auto plant investments in Ontario to provisions in the recently renegotiated North American free-trade agreement, now known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. The pact, effective in July, 2020, expanded levels of tariff-free local auto content to 75 per cent from 62 per cent, which requires car makers to source more parts locally.

The old Oshawa plant made Chevrolet Impala sedans and finished pickup trucks, but the new one will completely assemble trucks, “the entire enchilada,” Mr. Dias said. “There will be government money, but those conversations are just starting,” he said by phone.

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