CAMI Automotive Inc. could give General Motors an opportunity to act on its new interest in North American small cars.
CAMI, the 50-50 joint venture between GM and Suzuki Motor Corp., will stop building the Chevrolet Metro and Suzuki Swift next March. Those cars represent the automakers' smallest in this market.
But the soon-to-be idled production line already is in the market for a successor vehicle. Officials at the plant and at GM said it is too early to speculate on future product.
But as with other recent GM ventures around the world, any future small vehicle at CAMI is likely to be created with the help of an overseas manufacturing partner.
'The plant is very closely aligned with the Suzuki production system, and hopefully that will set the stage for future investment,' said GM of Canada spokesman Stew Low. 'We have a strong desire to continue working with the Suzuki partnership.'
Even though its cars have dwindled in consumer demand - the Metro currently sells only as a U.S. fleet vehicle - CAMI is one of the few plants where GM has been able to manufacture small cars profitably. In recent years, GM has circulated executives through CAMI to learn more about small-car production.
One of them, Robert Hendry, is now managing director of Adam Opel AG. Opel's highest volume product is the Corsa, which is similar in size to the Metro and Swift.
Meanwhile, as it prepares to halt car production, CAMI is putting more workers onto its small-truck production line. That line builds about 85,000 Chevrolet Tracker and Suzuki Vitara sport-utilities a year.
The move will make CAMI one of only a handful of auto plants in North America building three shifts a day. Low described the move as an opportunity for CAMI to better learn how to run on three shifts.
He said that expertise could help position CAMI for its next product.