CAW chief frets over possible Chevy Equinox shift to Tennessee
Photo credit: GM
DETROIT -- Canadian Auto Workers President Ken Lewenza said today he's concerned that General Motors will move some production of the popular Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain crossovers from Toronto-area plants to Spring Hill, Tenn.
Lewenza said GM won't tell him whether the crossovers will be produced in Spring Hill, which GM plans to reopen as part of its proposed labor settlement with the UAW.
It's a situation, Lewenza said, that has him wary because he found out in newspapers that GM plans in 2013 to shift primary production of the next-generation Chevrolet Impala sedan from Oshawa, Ontario, to a Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant in Michigan.
The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville, Tenn., reported this week that GM might be planning to produce the Equinox and Terrain in Spring Hill, citing Tennessee economic development officials.
"Where there's smoke, there's usually fire," Lewenza said in a phone interview today.
The CAW and UAW are separate unions and, at times, have competed for jobs in North America.
UAW officials said this week that GM plans to reopen Spring Hill sometime in 2012 to build two mid-sized vehicles, but didn't specify which ones.
A GM spokeswoman says the automaker won't comment on future production plans. Faye Roberts, a spokeswoman for GM of Canada, said the company had no product announcements at CAMI or Oshawa.
Lewenza said he intends to ask GM for assurances that CAW-represented plants will remain the primary production source for the Equinox and Terrain.
That hedge could be critical to preserving CAW jobs should Spring Hill take some production, and sales of the vehicles fall off in the future, he said.
Moving overflow production to Spring Hill would help alleviate tight supplies of the high-demand crossovers. As of Sept. 1, GM had a 33-day supply of the Equinox and a 42-day supply of the Terrain -- two of the thinnest stocks among GM's high-volume vehicles.
Today, the Equinox and Terrain are predominantly built at GM's CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ontario, by about 2,700 employees on three shifts. A year ago, however, GM boosted supply in the face of heavy sales demand by creating a shuttle, whereby Equinox bodies built at CAMI are trucked to Oshawa for final assembly.
Oshawa also assembles the Impala, Buick Regal sedan and Chevrolet Camaro sports car.
CAMI and the Oshawa shuttle has won praise from GM executives, who have said the system has proven a creative solution for boosting production of the Equinox and Terrain.
Shuttling vehicles isn't the most efficient way to build them, though. Lewenza acknowledged that an industry cardinal rule is that the fewer times parts are touched, the better the quality and efficiency. In the case of the Oshawa shuttle, vehicles bodies must be loaded on trucks and unloaded for assembly.
While not ideal, the system has produced excellent quality and workmanship, he said.
"We've seen no in-system damage," Lewenza said.
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