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GM announces closure of four truck plants

by Paul Rachwal

GM CEO Rick Wagoner this morning announced the closure of four major truck plants, significantly reducing the company's ability to manufacture large SUVs and pickups. The affected plants are the Oshawa, Morraine, Lordstown, and Toluca plants. Wagoner also said GM would add a shift at the Lordstown compact car plant next year. Employees at the facilities were notified of the changes this morning.

The Oshawa, Ontario truck plant, which is one of the several North American plants that builds the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups, will close its doors by September of 2009. The plant is located directly beside the facility that will build the 2010 Camaro and other Zeta-platform cars. The Toluca, Mexico plant, which also builds the Silverado and Sierra, plus the GMC Kodiak 'monster' truck, will also close by the end of this year.

The Morraine, Ohio plant, which builds the Chevrolet Trailblazer, GMC Envoy, and Saab 9-7X, will shut down by 2010 or sooner if the market demand calls for it. The three vehicles built there are already slated for discontinuation, and this move gives us a clearer timeline.

The Janesville, Wisconsin facility, which builds the Chevrolet Suburban, Tahoe, and GMC Yukon will cease production by the end of 2009. The Yukon will be discontinued entirely, while the Suburban and Tahoe will continue to be built (in smaller numbers) at the Arlington, Texas plant.

Trucks, SUVs and crossovers were traditionally big money makers for car manufacturers, and while this newest move is a necessary one for GM, it is likely to have big consequences for the one-time world's biggest automaker.

The Lordstown facility, which is gaining a shift, currently makes the Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5. The additional capacity will make room for the yet-to-be-named ultra-efficient global compact car from Chevy. Wagoner said it will get 9 mpg more than Chevy's entry level car, likely referring to the current Aveo. The next generation Aveo will have segment-leading fuel economy as well, and be based on the same global platform.