GM will call in its second shift at the plant early next year, bringing the total number of jobs created to 1,800. The union is holding out for a third shift down the line. Dias is confident that young staff have secured long-term positions, while several hundred senior Unifor members returning from layoff are back in jobs they will someday retire from.
But not all are convinced that the plant’s new lease on life means vehicle assembly is back in Oshawa for the long haul.
Sam Fiorani, vice-president of global vehicle forecasting at AutoForecast Solutions LLC, is more circumspect about the automaker’s motives.
“GM has used this plant a couple times over the last decade to put in just enough production to keep the labour happy and by connection keep the citizens of Canada happier with General Motors products,” Fiorani said. “But it never seems to be a long-term ploy.”
The extra production capacity in Oshawa will help GM keep up with the competition while also appeasing Unifor, Fiorani said. But that does not mean pickup production will stay in the city indefinitely.
“While trucks are very popular and not going anywhere anytime soon, the use of the Oshawa plant does seem to be a temporary source of truck production,” Fiorani said.
The impending electrification of GM’s lineup, including its pickups, adds to the uncertainty.
The profitability of the Silverado — both lightand heavy-duty versions will be built in Oshawa — will help bankroll the slow shift into electric vehicles, said GM Canada President Scott Bell.
“It’s in great demand, and it will help fuel the future of our company and our transition to EVs over the next 10 years or so.”
Unifor was able to leverage this need for pickup capacity to bring the Oshawa plant back online, Dias said.
“We had to find a solution and reopen the plant immediately because the longer it stayed closed, the less of a chance it had to reopen. That’s why we knew the solution was pickup trucks.”
While the short-term calculus is clear, where it will leave Oshawa when GM no longer needs the gasoline and diesel pickups is less clear.
This past April, the automaker pulled back the curtain on plans to build an electric Silverado at Factory Zero in Michigan. Forecasters expect the pickup to debut in 2023.
Volumes of the electric model are certain to take time to build, but GM’s “temporary source” of pickup production in Oshawa, as Fiorani sees it, could face a new battle for survival sooner rather than later.