A General Motors sign in Oshawa, Ont., is photographed on Wednesday, June 20, 2018. General Motors Canada says it will start truck production at its assembly plant in Oshawa, Ont., ahead of schedule. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin

A General Motors sign in Oshawa, Ont., is photographed on Wednesday, June 20, 2018. General Motors Canada says it will start truck production at its assembly plant in Oshawa, Ont., ahead of schedule. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin

Oshawa assembly plant restart ahead of schedule, GM Canada says

Closure of plant in 2019 was huge blow to Canada’s manufacturing sector

OSHAWA, Ont. — General Motors Canada says it will restart production at its assembly plant in Oshawa, Ont., ahead of schedule, after a healthy demand for trucks and a shift to electric vehicles saved the location from a planned closure.

The company says truck production is now expected to begin in the fourth quarter of this year rather than its previous target of January 2022.

“Working with our union and supplier partners, this will bring thousands of direct and indirect jobs, just as Canada recovers from COVID,” said Scott Bell, GM Canada President and managing director in a statement.

“Oshawa has a long history of innovation, speed and launch excellence and is on track to deliver one of the fastest plant launches in GM history.”

GM reached a deal last year to invest $1.3 billion and reopen the assembly plant after it was shut down in 2019.

As part of the preparations, workers are installing a new body shop and more than 1,200 new robots.

The closure of the plant in 2019 was a huge blow to Canada’s manufacturing sector, as well as for Oshawa, where the GM plant is an important part of the local economy.

Politicians, the union representing workers and even U.K. singer Sting fought the company’s decision to close the plant. It eventually led to the manufacturer relenting, keeping 300 jobs with a $170 million investment to turn a portion of the operation into auto parts plant.

With the plant re-opening, experts say the auto industry’s shift to electric vehicles will help keep the Canada’s manufacturing sector competitive against the U.S and Mexico.

In November, Bell said the Oshawa plant’s proximity to universities and start-ups in the Greater Toronto Area will help GM recruit for the coming shift to electric and self-driving vehicles.

“You need some of the best engineers in the world, and Toronto and the GTA area certainly is a hotspot for that,” said Bell. “You got to go where the where the talent is, and certainly Ontario has its unfair share of talent.”

The company says Oshawa is currently hiring nearly 1,700 people to staff two production shifts.

Earlier this year, Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters called the re-opening a breath of fresh air for a sector that has struggled to retain jobs and fend off other North American competitors for years.

“It is good news for Ontario, for those employees in the auto sector, and for the businesses and employees in the supply chain that supports auto assembly in Ontario,” association President Dennis Darby said in an email to The Canadian Press.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 5, 2021.

Automotive