The Ontario-born head of General Motors Canada has been named a senior vice president at the automaker and will head Cadillac, and that’s good for GM’s Canadian operations says the union representing workers at several Ontario factories.
Steve Carlisle, a native of Woodstock, Ont., who began his career in 1982 as an engineering co-op student at GM's Oshawa Truck Plant, had risen through the ranks to become president of the Canadian operation in November 2014.
Unifor national president Jerry Dias said he considers Carlisle as an ally in protecting the Canadian operation.
As head of GM Canada, Carlisle led the automaker through two labour negotiations with the Canadian union Unifor. The first, in 2016, ultimately led to a new contract with most GM Canada workers and, eventually, a $500 million retooling of the Oshawa, Ont., plant, which now does final assembly of Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks on one of its lines.
The second round of negotiations, in 2017, was contentious, ultimately leading to a month-long strike at GM’s CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ont., which builds the top-selling Chevrolet Equinox. GM threatened to close the CAMI plant and shift output to Mexico before reaching a deal with Unifor days later.
Dias said the Oshawa complex, where GM Canada has its headquarters, was headed for closure in June of this year, but Carlisle was determined that it wouldn't close under his watch.
"For me, it was imperative, during the 2016 contract negotiations, to have someone who I believed was an ally and who was looking for a solution," Dias said in a telephone interview with The Canadian Press.
"There was always an element of comfort knowing the head of GM Canada was actually a Canadian."
Carlisle's replacement as president of GM Canada is Travis Hester, who began his GM career in 1995 in Australia. Since moving to the United States in 2005, Hester has had engineering positions in the U.S. and China. He became GM's vice-president for global product programs in 2016.
Dias said he plans to meet with Hester soon, but didn't know him yet and wouldn't comment on his appointment.
Carlisle will replace Johan de Nysschen, who is leaving effectively immediately as head of the Cadillac group, as it prepares to bring out the XT4 — a compact utility vehicle.
"We appreciate Johan's efforts over the last four years in setting a stronger foundation for Cadillac," said General Motors president Dan Ammann said in a statement.
Carlisle, who becomes a senior vice-president of the parent company as well as president of Cadillac, will report to Ammann while Hester will report to Alan Batey, president of GM North America.
Dias said Carlisle's appointment to head Cadillac will raise his profile and influence within General Motors headquarters in Detroit and that "would be a huge benefit for us."
Cadillac is actually based in New York, not Detroit. That’s because de Nysschengiven was given unprecedented freedom over managing Cadillac, including moving the venerable luxury brand's headquarters out of Detroit to New York City and operating separately from GM’s core brands.
David Paterson, vice president of corporate and environmental affairs at GM Canada, said Hester will be in Canada this week to meet with employees, while
Carlisle is in New York today to do the same. He said the two will work together in the coming weeks as they transition into their new roles.
“I think the message today was that Steve is a change agent to help accelerate that Cadillac global plan,” Paterson said.
He said Hester, 46, will develop his goals and plans for GM Canada in the coming weeks as he learns more about the unit. He said he anticipates Hester's deep knowledge of GM products will help him connect with dealers and build up the automaker’s Canadian sales.
John Irwin of Automotive News Canada contributed to this report.