General Motors said Friday it will invest $68 million at its plant in Oshawa, Ont., to build the new version of its Chevy Impala sedan — a move that will save 350 jobs as the automaker streamlines its Canadian operations through plant closures and layoffs.
The new car will be produced on a so-called flex assembly line in the industrial city east of Toronto, a line where the U.S.-owned automaker has shifted more of its car production in recent years.
The plant, which runs traditional and flexible assembly lines — which can be quickly retooled to make multiple car models — employs more than 4,400 people. It has undergone many changes this past year, recently launching the Buick Regal, Chevrolet Camaro Convertible and Chevrolet Equinox.
“We are building on the recent capacity increases, product launches and shift additions at our Canadian operations to affirm that Canada will play an important role in the new GM as we continue to transform our product lineup,” said Kevin Williams, president and managing director of General Motors of Canada.
The announcement follows a decision by GM earlier this year to build the new Cadillac XTS at the Oshawa plant. That decision created or saved 400 jobs on the flexible assembly line.
GM is scaling back its overall operations in Canada as part of a North American restructuring begun two years ago under bankruptcy court protection. That streamlining led to the loss of tens of thousands of jobs at the company’s Canadian and U.S. operations and the shutdown of several plants.
In Canada, GM has already closed a truck plant in Oshawa and a transmission factory in Windsor, Ont.
GM also plans to shut down the older part of the Oshawa car plant, which currently employs 2,400 people, in the first quarter of 2013. The Cadillac announcement in August and Impala announcement on Friday will save 750 of those jobs when the line shuts down.
The flex line currently employs 2,000 people and currently makes the Chevy Camaro, Buick Regal and soon, the Cadillac XTS.
The Impala will also be built at GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant in Michigan.
“We have a strong track record of quality and productivity in Oshawa where we will continue to build the world’s best vehicles,” said Chris Buckley, president of the Canadian Auto Workers Local 222 which represents the workers at the Oshawa plant.
GM and its Canadian subsidiary were bailed out by the U.S., Canadian and Ontario governments two years ago and restructured its operations.
Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said it has become clear that helping the company with billions of dollars in aid was the right decision.
“Our support has helped preserve Canada’s place in the automotive industry,” Flaherty said in a statement.
“It has helped protect jobs in communities across Canada in automotive assembly and automotive parts production.”
GM Canada currently employs more than 10,000 people across the country. In its heyday, the automaker had more than twice that total and major operations in Oshawa, St. Catharines, Ont. and Windsor.