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A history of General motors in Canada Add to ...

For decades, the Oshawa, Ont., operations of General Motors Co. were one of the brightest jewels in the auto maker’s crown, churning out some of the company’s most important cars and trucks. Here's a history of the company's milestones in Canada. Scroll down for historic photos of GM in Oshawa through the years.

1832
John McLaughlin, a teetotalling Presbyterian, emigrates to Ontario from County Cavan, Ireland. His son, Robert, would go on to launch a business manufacturing axe handles, then expand into horse-drawn sleighs and carriages. By the turn of the century, the family was calling its Oshawa facility the largest carriage factory in the British Empire.

1907
Robert McLaughlin and his sons Sam and George hire a U.S. engineer to fashion an all-Canadian motor vehicle modelled on the Buick. In 1908, the plant turned out 154 McLaughlins. Still not entirely convinced that the era of horse-drawn carriages is almost over, Robert McLaughlin reluctantly agrees to the sale of his carriage business to make way for production of Chevrolets alongside Buicks at the Oshawa plant. With bodies made to Sam McLaughlin’s designs, the Chevrolets go on to become as much of a success in Canada as Chevrolets were in the United States.

1918
General Motors Corp. reaches a deal to buy the McLaughlin business on the condition that the family stay to run it. McLaughlin Motor Car Co. and Chevrolet Motor Car Co. of Canada are merged to create General Motors of Canada Ltd., a wholly owned division of GM. Sam and George McLaughlin became the first president and vice-president of GM of Canada, respectively.

1921
The Canadian operation grows rapidly in the early 1920s due to GM’s decision to take advantage of tariff agreements within the British Commonwealth by making Oshawa its export manufacturing base. The company was making Buicks, Oldsmobiles and Oaklands.

1937
GM Canada withstands a bitter strike in Oshawa. More than 4,000 workers at the plant go on strike from April 8 to 23, demanding an eight-hour day, better wages and working conditions, a seniority system and recognition of their union, the United Automobile Workers, local 222.

1942
Civilian automobile production is suspended so that the company can manufacture tanks, machine guns and other military equipment until the end of the Second World War.

1945
Sam McLaughlin retires as president of GM of Canada. When he dies in 1972, at the age of 100, he was chairman of the board.

1965
Canada and the U.S. sign the Canada-U.S. Automotive Products Trade Agreement. The pact allows GM of Canada to increase its production capacity dramatically, and by 1973, the company’s two-millionth truck is built.

1980s
GM invests $8-billion to improve its manufacturing capacity in Canada. The revolutionary GM Autoplex in Oshawa becomes the centrepiece of GM of Canada’s manufacturing operations and one of the largest car assembly plants on the planet. The plant can turn out as many as 730,000 cars and trucks a year.

1996
GM and the Canadian Auto Workers reach a deal to end a three-week strike that left idle nearly 46,000 workers throughout North America and is estimated to have shaved at least $1-billion off the Canadian economy.

2005
GM says it will shut 12 underproductive factories, including the Oshawa No. 2 car plant. The decision to close the plant in the city that Canadian automotive pioneer Sam McLaughlin made famous stuns industry players. Including the elimination of a shift at the company’s other car plant in Oshawa, 3,750 jobs disappear.

2008
Workers blockade GM’s Oshawa head office after the company says the Oshawa truck plant is one of four plants in North America that will cease production next year because of slumping demand for full-sized pickups and sport utility vehicles.

2009
The last pickup truck rolls off the assembly line at GM’s Oshawa truck plant. The closing of the plant marks the end of an era in the city where GM Canada was born, as well as GM’s decades-long run as the largest auto manufacturer in the country.

2009
GM is bailed out with roughly $60-billion (U.S.) in loans from the U.S., Canadian and Ontario governments. The federal and Ontario governments receive 12 per cent of the common shares in the new GM in return for $10.8-billion (Canadian) in financial assistance, in the hope of retaining thousands of jobs.

2012
The CAW union receives notice that GM will begin shutting its consolidated assembly line. Originally scheduled in 2005 for 2008, the union and GM squeezed five more years of production out of the plant than expected.



Sources: The Globe and Mail, GM Canada, Driving Force: The McLaughlin Family and the Age of the Car by Heather Robertson, Canadian Encyclopedia




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