General Motors to halt production at five plants in North America; several served by railroads

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DETROIT — General Motors announced Monday that it will cease production at three automotive assembly plants and two transmission plants in North America next year, a decision sure to impact the railroads that serve them.

The largest of the assembly plants slated for shutdown is the 6.2-million acre Lordstown Complex in Warren, Ohio, that produces the Chevrolet Cruze. Both CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern serve this facility, which employs 1,600 autoworkers. GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck plant, which assembles the Chevrolet Volt and Impala along with the Buick LaCrosse and Cadillac CT6, is also on the list. NS serves this 1,500-worker facility.

Canadian National serves the Oshawa assembly plant in Ontario, which produces the Chevrolet Impala and Cadillac XTS along with two pickup truck models, the Chevrolet Light Duty Silverado and GMC Light Duty Sierra. Oshawa employs more than 2,500 people. A CN spokesperson declined to comment further.

GM’s transmission plants in Warren, Mich., and White Marsh, Md., known as the Baltimore Operations, are also on the block. GM confirms to Trains that Baltimore is not served by rail.

In what Reuters has called the biggest North American restructuring for GM since its 2009 bankruptcy, more than 6,700 hourly and salaried workers are directly affected. The United Auto Workers labor union called it a “callous decision” and vowed to challenge the auto company’s action “through every legal, contractual, and collective bargaining avenue.”

Pushback is also coming from politicians on both sides of the border. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted that he had spoken with GM’s CEO, Mary Barra, to express “deep disappointment.” CNBC reports that Barra will meet today with Larry Kudlow, economic adviser to President Donald Trump.

Trump told reporters at the White House that wasn’t happy about the plant closures and that he urged Barra to “put something else in” the Lordstown plant.

With a consumer shift to SUVs and pickup trucks, many of the sedan vehicles produced at these plants have seen their sales slump. Lordstown and Detroit-Hamtramck are operating on just one shift, with only the truck line at Oshawa running two shifts.

General Motors is also looking ahead. In a statement, the automaker said that spending on electric and autonomous vehicles would double in the next two years.

“We recognize the need to stay in front of changing market conditions and customer preferences to position our company for long-term success,” said Barra.

Two additional, unspecified plants outside North America will also cease operations by the end of 2019 and salaried staff will be cut 15 percent as part of the automaker’s restructuring.
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