General Motors' Oshawa Assembly plant: A brief history
The General Motors car plant in Oshawa, Ont. has been a staple of North America auto manufacturing for decades.
In recent years, the company has been whittling down the number of employees at the plant to just over 2,500 today— a far cry from its heyday when it employed approximately 23,000 people in the 1980s.
The Nov. 2018 announcement that GM is closing it down effectively ends more than a century of vehicle manufacturing in the city.
John McLaughlin emigrated to Ontario from Cavan, Ireland and started a carriage factory operation. By the turn of the last century, it became the largest of its kind in the British Empire before operations pivoted to automobiles.
Two years after General Motors Corp. buys the McLaughlin Motor Car Company, its Oshawa operations becomes the company’s the export manufacturing base. GM rapidly expands it car production with a focus on Buicks, Oldsmobiles and Oaklands.
The main Oshawa plant begins production on November 7, 1953.
After an $8-billion investment in its operations, the GM Autoplex in Oshawa becomes the crown jewel of General Motors Canada’s manufacturing operations. It becomes one of the largest car assembly plants in the world producing 730,000 cars and trucks a year.
In stunning move, GM announces it will close 12 unproductive factories, including the Oshawa No. 2 plant and eliminate 3,750 jobs at its car plant.
The Chevrolet Monte Carlo and Pontiac Grand Prix lines are both discontinued in June and November 2007 respectively; production of the Buick LaCrosse is moved to Kansas City, Kansas.
GM receives a $60-billion bailout package from Canadian, Ontario and U.S. governments. In exchange for $10.8 billion of government assistance, federal and provincial governments will take a 12 per cent take of company shares.
Oshawa’s truck plant is shuttered along with three other North American plant closures that year. The move effectively ends decades of GM’s position as the country’s largest automaker and ends 90 years of truck manufacturing in Canada for GM.
The plant begins producing its fifth-generation Chevrolet Camaro and the Chevrolet Equinox working with the CAMI Assembly in Ingersoll, Ont.
In 2012, GM closes a consolidated plant in Oshawa, a move that was first announced in 2005, and led to a loss of at least 2,000 jobs.
The main plant begins building the Cadillac XTS with the company boasting that the plant was capable of building a model from nearly “every GM brand.” By 2015, the Automotive News Data Center said GM produced nearly 275,000 vehicles in Oshawa.
In February, the Oshawa Assembly plant starts making Light Duty GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverados in addition to Cadillac XTS and Chevrolet Impala. GM boasts that the Oshawa’s plant was “capable of building vehicles from every brand in the portfolio” and the “only assembly plant in North America capable of building both cars and trucks in the same plant.”
November 25, 2018
General Motors announces the closure of its Oshawa car assembly plant, essentially ending 111 years of auto manufacturing in Oshawa.
With files from The Parkwood Historical Site, General Motors Canada