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GM’s Oshawa revamp to permit final assembly of pickups

Images of the GM car plant in Oshawa on July 20, 2013.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

A $400-million revamp of a General Motors Co. assembly line in Oshawa, Ont., will permit workers to perform final assembly of pickup trucks, sources knowledgeable about a deal between the company and the union representing its Canadian workers said.

The concept is one already in place in Oshawa, but the factory will do final assembly of pickup trucks sent by rail from a GM pickup truck assembly plant in Fort Wayne, Ind., the sources said.

Installing interior components and doing final assembly of pickups will help maintain about 2,500 jobs in Oshawa to secure its future. Keeping Oshawa open was the key victory for Unifor in its negotiations with GM.

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Workers at the plant already install interiors and complete the assembly of unfinished Chevrolet Equinox bodies shipped to Oshawa from Cami Automotive in Ingersoll, Ont. That work will end next year, however, when the consolidated assembly line at the plant shuts down.

What the company calls its flex line in Oshawa, will continue production for at least the next four years with the pickup assembly and an extension in production of the Cadillac XTS passenger car.

Sources had earlier said that GM would send unfinished bodies of its full-sized SUVs to Oshawa from a plant in Texas, but as details emerged about the deal, the sources said the agreement calls for pickup truck bodies to be shipped to Oshawa for final assembly, not bodies for SUVs.

GM assembles its full-sized pickups in Fort Wayne, Flint, Mich., and a plant in Silao, Mexico.

The Chevrolet Silverado full-sized pickup is the best-selling vehicle in the GM lineup, while its GMC twin, the Sierra, is No. 3.

The distance from Fort Wayne to Oshawa is about 700 kilometres, which would make it less expensive and take less time than shipping bodies from Arlington, Tex.

Pickup trucks and full-sized SUVs are hot sellers for GM with the average price of gasoline standing at a little more than $2 (U.S.) a gallon in the United States.

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