The Canadian Auto Workers union vows to battle any plan by General Motors Co. to shift production of some Chevrolet Impala models from a plant in Oshawa, Ont., to a plant in Michigan.
"We own the Impala," said Chris Buckley, president of CAW Local 222, which represents 3,000 active workers and another 1,2000 on layoff at GM's two car plants in Oshawa, including one that now is the only GM factory turning out Impalas.
"If General Motors is going to make a decision to source it anywhere else, they have a fight on their hands," Mr. Buckley said yesterday. "The Impala is a Canadian-made vehicle; we own the rights to produce it in Canada and we're going to continue to produce it in Canada."
His comments came one day after the Automotive Parts Manufacturers' Association of Canada issued a notice to its members stating that GM plans to assemble the Impala in both Oshawa and a plant in Hamtramck, Mich., near Detroit, when the auto maker begins cranking out the redesigned version of the car in 2013.
Splitting production between the two plants, APMA said, could cut output in Oshawa to 400,000 units annually from a planned target of 500,000. GM's Oshawa complex and its Cami Automotive Inc. factory produced a total of 350,000 vehicles last year.
In response to the APMA notice, General Motors of Canada Ltd. issued a statement saying it will meet federal and Ontario government requirements that it maintain 16 per cent of its North American vehicle production in Canada.
"Inferences of a reduction in our Canadian production volume plans are simply inaccurate," the GM Canada statement said. The company said it recently announced that the Buick Regal will be added to the Chevrolet Camaro at its other Oshawa assembly plant in the first quarter of 2011 and that two more vehicles will be added later.
It did not identify the two vehicles, but did not dispute the APMA statement that identified the two cars as the Cadillac XTS and the Impala.
The auto maker also did not deny APMA's assertion that production of the Impala will be split.
Mr. Buckley said the CAW is trying to convince GM to keep the current Impala plant open after 2013 when production of the replacement vehicle begins at the newer, flexible plant.
The GM Canada restructuring plan submitted to the governments last February shows no new product at the Impala plant after 2013 "and there has been no change to that," company spokesman Tony LaRocca said yesterday.
If the CAW is unable to persuade GM to keep that plant open, it would mean the once-mighty GM Oshawa operation would be down to just a single plant, compared with three plants during the glory days before the 2008 recession.
The new Oshawa cars, and the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain made at GM's plant in Ingersoll, Ont., are likely to mean that GM will be able to comply with the governments' 16-per-cent production requirement in the 2014-2015 time frame, noted Bill Pochiluk, president of consulting firm AutomotiveCompass LLC.
But shifting some Impala production has the potential to be bad news for Ontario, Mr. Pochiluk said. "There is no way you can paint this as a win when you're giving up half of it to Hamtramck."
CAW president Ken Lewenza said that if production is split between two plants, the union will seek a commitment from GM that such a move will have no negative impact on Oshawa.
He added that he is seeking a top-level meeting with GM to discuss a number of issues, including production.