It has been difficult watching General Motors try to adjust its North American production capacity. These are politically explosive times, and GM's moves since late November have again turned the company into a political punching bag on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border.
A loonie idea to save Oshawa
Instead, I'd like to suggest a loonie alternative, especially in Oshawa.
Rather than have every GM dealer from Victoria Island to Newfoundland lose sales for GM's decision to idle Oshawa; rather than have Chevy and Buick, Cadillac and GMC's brand names beaten to a pulp in an important section of its North American market, GM should offer to sell the Oshawa plant for $1 — Canadian (also known as a loonie) — to any automaker that wants it.
The only caveat: The new owner — which would save a boatload on capital expenses to get its turnkey assembly plant up and running in a hurry — must keep the work force.
GM obviously would be free to take whatever tooling it wants when it stops building the Buick Regal, Chevy Impala and Cadillac XTS, the outgoing Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra. Or GM could leave it; I don't care (and I haven't seen any evidence that GM cares, either).
Other automakers are looking to add North American production capacity. Volkswagen, for example, is hunting for a plant to build its electric vehicles in North America. There's Tesla, or any Chinese automaker or Magna Steyr, which is interested in contract manufacturing opportunities. No matter who might want it, few plants in the world are as flexible as Oshawa — especially one that has a highly trained and capable work force.
On the whole, it is an attractive property: I'd tell GM to make 'em an offer they can't refuse and do so publicly.
If there are no takers, at least GM would have tried. Just the offer, if made sincerely, would go a long way toward mitigating the reputational damage GM would suffer across Canada if Oshawa is shuttered and left to die.
And if by some chance another automaker or contract manufacturer says, 'Yes, we'll take it!' GM could pull a win out of what would otherwise be an ugly defeat across America's northern neighbor. If another operator is found, it could keep all those Canadian supplier factories from shutting down after Oshawa.
If GM wants to exit Canada, as it did Europe, that's up to Mary Barra and her team.
But if they want to do so without leaving too big a mess behind for others to clean up, maybe they should give this plan a try.
It's just loonie enough to work.
You may email Larry P. Vellequette at [email protected]