GM's Oshawa plant is closing: Here's what you need to know

The company has been in Oshawa, Ont., for 100 years. According to the city, it was Oshawa's largest employer as of May, 2017. Nearly 3,000 direct jobs will be lost in the closure.

From the number of jobs losses, to the status of a previous government bailout

Carl Dillmam, who has worked at the General Motors plant for 37 years, sits with union members in Oshawa, Ont., as they learn the plant will close. (Lars Hagberg/AFP/Getty Images)

The General Motors Oshawa facility was once one of the biggest auto assembly plants in the world. On Monday, the automotive giant confirmed it will close the plant at the end of next year as part of a global restructuring plan.

The company has been in Oshawa, Ont., for 100 years.

According to the city, it was Oshawa's largest employer as of May, 2017.

The head of the Ontario Federation of Labour, Chris Buckley, said the closure will affect GM workers and thousands of others across the region. "For every job at the assembly plant, an additional nine jobs are created in the community," he said.  

Employment at the factory has grown, shrunk and changed with the times. 

Oshawa origins

General Motors is closing the Oshawa production plant along with four facilities in the U.S. as part of a global reorganization. (Eduardo Lima/Canadian Press)

General Motors bought Sam McLaughlin's car-manufacturing business in Oshawa in 1918. Four decades later, it built a second plant there which opened in Nov. 1953.

In the 1980s, GM poured billions of dollars into the facility, transforming it into what the company called the "autoplex."

In 2006, GM built a new "state-of-the-art" vehicle paint facility there which it said reduced volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions by 50 per cent on a per vehicle basis.


Peak: About 23,000 (1980s).

Today: GM employs about 4,000 people in Oshawa. It said a total of 2,973 jobs will be affected by the Dec. 2019 Oshawa Assembly wind down, including 2,522 who work at the plant itself. 

More than 2,500 workers in Oshawa will be affected by the closure. (Lars Hagberg/AFP/Getty Images)

GM said the plant has been running at half capacity for several years.

Unifor, the union representing the company's hourly wage earners, said in a statement that it "does not accept the closure of the plant as a foregone conclusion."

Unifor President Jerry Dias said GM made a deal in 2016 to keep the plant running until Sept. 2020. "The only decision we will accept is the decision made in 2016 that says we are going to be building trucks and the plant would be staying open for the life of the agreement."

What the plant has produced

The plant has produced everything from sedans to trucks to the Camaro muscle car. In 2008, it was converted into a flexible manufacturing facility, which allowed it to make faster switches between models and assembly lines.

During its early years, it produced Pontiac, Chevrolet and Buick models. With adaptations and transformations, GM said in February that Oshawa became the only plant capable of building vehicles from every brand in the company's portfolio. GM said it was the only assembly plant in North America capable of building both cars and trucks in the same facility.

The Chevrolet Camaro is seen during the 2017 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, Jan. 10, 2017. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)


  • 4 Buick models, including the Century and the Regal.
  • 13 Chevrolet models, including the Impala, Camaro and Equinox.
  • 1 Oldsmobile model, the Cutless Ciera.
  • 6 Pontiac models, including the Grand Prix and LeMans.


  • Chevrolet Impala, final assembly of 2018 Light Duty Silverado.
  • Cadillac XTS.
  • Final assembly of GMC 2018 Light Duty Sierra.

The bailout

In June 2009, GM filed for bankruptcy protection. In its filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, it said it had $82.29 billion US in assets and $172.81 billion in liabilities as of the end of that fiscal year.

In Canada, the federal and Ontario governments provided about $9.5 billion US in financial aid to the automaker. In return, they got an 11.7 per cent stake in GM.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, right, and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty outline details of the $9.5 billion US in Canadian loans to General Motors in June 2009. (Fred Thornhill/Reuters)

In 2011, the two governments sold a block of 30 million shares but continued to hold more than 119 million GM common shares and 16.1 million GM series A preferred stock through a federal agency. The federal government sold the last of those stocks in 2015

In October, Export Development Canada, the national export credit agency, showed there was an outstanding loan to GM Corp. for more than $1 billion.

Earlier this year, CBC News reported the government had quietly written off a loan to the auto sector.