TOKYO -- General Motors Co. and Suzuki Motor Corp. are ending their CAMI joint assembly operation in Canada, with Suzuki selling its 50 percent stake to GM in a move that severs another tie between the partners.
Neither company disclosed the timing or pricing of the sale, which was announced today.
Suzuki ended production at the Ingersoll, Ontario, plant last summer amid slumping sales of the XL7 SUV, which was manufactured there. GM announced last month it would invest $85.1 million to retool the plant and raise production by 40,000 vehicles.
CAMI currently makes the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain.
GM approached Suzuki with the proposal to sell its stake, Suzuki spokesman Hideki Taguchi said. The Japanese company won't be taking a loss on the sale, he added.
“We have no model being produced there and no plans to introduce one,” Taguchi said. “So the position of CAMI has gone down.”
The breakup ends a cooperative effort that began in November 1986, when the biggest U.S. automaker was courting Suzuki to learn more about Japanese production methods. The sale also breaks one of the last ties holding the companies together.
GM purchased an initial 5.3 percent stake in the Japanese automaker in 1981. GM's holding rose to more than 20 percent in 2001 but was later trimmed to 3 percent. Facing bankruptcy late last year, the cash-strapped U.S. automaker dumped the rest of its holdings.
"Bringing CAMI completely into the GM family is a strong vote of confidence in the people there and builds on the recent positive news at the plant since the highly successful launch of the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain,” GM Canada President Arturo Elias said in a statement.
GM said demand for those vehicles climbed 17 percent in November and that the company has been ramping up output at CAMI through overtime and the addition of a third shift.
More than a factory
In its current financial straits, GM has abandoned three of its heralded North American learning labs this year. In addition to ending the partnership at CAMI, GM walked away from its 25-year-old joint venture with Toyota Motor Corp., New United Motor Manufacturing Inc., or NUMMI. And GM has pulled the plug on its Saturn brand -- a small-car venture forged by much of the know-how it extracted from NUMMI and CAMI.
The Ontario partnership was more than a factory. GM was not merely looking for additional production capacity. At the time CAMI was built in the late 1980s, GM was shuttering its own existing plants around the country.
CAMI was created to be a learning lab, to help GM learn tips on how to produce small vehicles profitably with a union work force.
With Suzuki as their partner, GM managers learned how to engage hourly workers in an ongoing workplace improvement effort -- an often overlooked strong point of Japanese automakers. CAMI's union workers submitted thousands of suggestions on how to improve assembly lines and production procedures.
CAMI also became a desired destination for many GM managers who wanted to study Japanese production techniques. Among the executives who passed through CAMI were Chief Financial Officer Ray Young and Tom LaSorda, who later became CEO of Chrysler.
Lindsay Chappell contributed to this report.