GM's product plans create bargaining chips for UAW talks

Product commitments are valuable bargaining chips in UAW contract talks. And General Motors has a lot of them -- most imprinted with a Cadillac badge.

Cadillac has promised a product onslaught of eight new models by 2020. As GM and the UAW push toward an agreement that could come as early as this coming week, it’s a good bet that negotiators are discussing which of those new Cadillacs will be made where.

Some examples:

• A small entry-level Cadillac car could be slated for GM’s Lordstown plant in Ohio, within a few years, industry forecasters predict. Lordstown by then will be busy making the next-gen Chevy Cruze. But some Cruze production is expected to shift to Mexico, which would create capacity for the small Caddy.

• A subcompact Cadillac crossover is likely headed to GM’s Orion plant north of Detroit. GM in June confirmed plans for a new vehicle "unlike any in the plant's 32-year history,” to begin assembly by 2018. Industry sources peg that car as Caddy’s future BMW X1/Mercedes GLA fighter.

• A large Cadillac crossover would be a logical fit for the Lansing Delta Township plant in Michigan, which now cranks out GM’s family of big crossovers, the Chevrolet Traverse, Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia. Production of the next-generation Acadia appears headed to Spring Hill, Tenn., potentially clearing space for the big Cadillac (think Audi Q7 or Volvo XC90).

The product possibilities go beyond Cadillac, though. Perhaps the highest-volume one is a new Chevy midsize crossover slated to arrive in 2017, which forecasters say will be built in Spring Hill alongside the Acadia and Cadillac XT5 (SRX replacement).

There are likely to be some outflows of production too. The Buick Verano, for example, is expected to leave Orion for a GM plant abroad, either in Mexico or China, industry watchers say.

It’ll be interesting to see how much of GM’s future production plans will get spelled out in its UAW agreement. Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles’ first tentative pact was unusually devoid of firm product commitments, and was soundly defeated. That didn’t sit well with workers.

Dave Cole, chairman emeritus of the Center for Automotive Research and a labor expert, says the Detroit 3 generally prefer not to immortalize product and job plans in their UAW agreements -- a change in business conditions could derail things and cause rancor among workers.

But the automakers will include them as sweeteners if it could mean the difference between a contract getting ratified or shot down, Cole says.

Either way, it appears that Cadillac’s coming product offensive is well-timed for GM’s labor talks.

Reporter Dave Barkholz contributed to this report

You can reach Mike Colias at mcolias@autonews.com

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