Will make Equinox, Terrain models
By NORMAN DE BONO, The London Free Press
Last Updated: March 26, 2010 5:29pm
A worker at the plant in 2009 Cami Automotive is poised to hire up to 400 more workers — a record for the Ingersoll manufacturer.
GM Canada announced this morning some of the hot selling Equinox and Terrain crossover utility vehicles will be assembled at the GM plant in Oshawa, as demand has the Ingersoll plant running full tilt.
That move will add 70 workers at Cami now, but GM is also speeding up the line— they will start cranking out 1,000 vehicles a day this summer — and that will see more than 300 more joining the ranks of Canadian Auto Workers, said Mike Van Boekel, chairperson of Local 88 at Cami.
"It is great news for GM, and for this community," Van Boekel said this morning. "We are so far behind production now, the vehicles are selling very well."
In fact, this year Cami will make about 250,000 vehicles, a record, he added. In addition, by the time hiring is completed this summer it will employ "well over" 2,500, also a top number for the manufacturer.
"It is huge we could have 400 more people here here this summer," said Van Boekel. "It is fantastic news and it is happening while there is still a recession on."
In Oshawa, about 70,000 Equinox and Terrain vehicles will be assembled annually starting in August, he added.
While Cami workers do not like losing some production to Oshawa, 600 workers will be recalled there to staff a third shift.
"There are mixed feelings here about some production going to Oshawa, but at least it is staying in Canada," said Van Boekel.
GM closed its truck plant in Oshawa last year, cutting more than 2,000 jobs.
Cami has undergone a $100-million expansion of its weld shop and from there it will ship Equinox models to Oshawa for final assembly and paint on its under-utilitzed Impala line, allowing Cami to make more vehicles on its lines in Ingersoll.
In the first two months of this year, sales of the Equinox in the U.S. more than doubled to 18,000 from less than 9,000 the first two months of last year. The Terrain added another 8,100 on top of that, meaning 26,000 Cami made vehicles sold the first two months of this year in the U.S., said Carlos Gomes, automotive analyst with Scotiabank.
In fact, there is only 30 days inventory for Equinox and Terrain vehicles remaining on dealer lots across the U.S. — dealers like to have 60 days of inventory, added Gomes.
"It is positive production is remaining in Canada, historically that has been one of GM's most productive plants across North America," he said of Oshawa.
The resurgence of the Cami-made CUVs is mirrored by a rebound in the vehicle sector generally, with all vehicle sales in the U.S. rising 10 per cent the first two months this year over 2009, to 1.5 million units and the CUV segment lead all sales, up 19 per cent to 354,000 units.
"We are seeing a comeback,we are seeing year-over-yar gains," said Gomes.
The news marks a dramatic turnaround for the plant from a year ago when it had 500 workers laid off and was rotating layoffs for its remaining workers.
"What a difference a year makes," said Paul Holbrough, Mayor of Ingersoll and Warden of Oxford County. "GM invested in that plant, it has good, quality workers and consumers are certainly interested in the product at that plant," said Holbrough.
"This is good news, it is exciting new for Ingersoll."
Cami will also see the last of its laid off workers recalled April 6.