DETROIT — Canada's largest supplier, Magna International, is a potential lifeline for General Motors' Oshawa plant in Ontario.
Magna CEO Don Walker said Tuesday that if his company were able to secure multiple deals with manufacturers to build between 20,000 and 50,000 vehicles each per year, it would take a look at Oshawa, or a brand-new plant, as a North American venue for contract manufacturing.
GM plans to end production of the Chevrolet Impala and move pickups to other plants by the end of the year, putting the brakes on 112 years of production at Oshawa. The plant employs about 2,600 workers and has roughly 10 million square feet of manufacturing space.
GM rejected a proposal from Canadian union Unifor that would have kept the plant open past the end of this year.
On paper, Oshawa looks like an ideal venue for contract assembly. A decade ago, GM spent nearly $2 billion converting the plant to flexible manufacturing. Oshawa's newly renovated paint shop can accommodate 27 body styles of cars, pickups, vans and trucks.
Magna Steyr, the company's Austrian business unit, builds vehicles under contract for a number of automakers at its plant in Graz, Austria. Jaguar, BMW, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz and Aston Martin are current or former customers of the Graz plant.
Speaking at the Automotive News World Congress, Walker said he's not surprised GM decided to end production in Oshawa. "There is a lot of pressure from the U.S. administration to invest in the U.S.," Walker said. "Oshawa, unfortunately, didn't have a lot of product. It was a good plant, and I am sure it was a tough decision, but I am not that surprised it came to that."
Walker said he got his start in the auto industry nearly 40 years ago at the Oshawa plant.
Any decision on a North American contract assembly plant would come down to the numbers, Walker said. "If we had four or five customers that said, 'I'll give you 20,000, 30,000, 40,000, 50,000 vehicles,' and we got that up to 120,000 to 150,000 vehicles, then we could have a plant, either build a greenfield or buy a brownfield. It really depends what our customers want."
One vehicle that may be a candidate for contract manufacture is the Cadillac CT6. GM clarified its plans for the luxury sedan this week and said it is not discontinuing the car but is looking for plant to build it in. GM currently builds the CT6 at Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly, which also potentially could close, and at a plant in China.
Asked whether Magna would build the CT6 for GM, Walker said: "We're always interested in everything."