GM plant's closure effect on Windsor manufacturing suppliers still unknown

General Motors is closing several plants in 2019 on both sides of the border, which could affect manufacturers in Windsor-Essex in the supply chain.

‘Nonetheless, every little bit counts,’ says Cavalier sales manager

Oshawa's General Motors car assembly plant in Oshawa, Ont. will be unallocated in 2019. (Michelle Siu/The Canadian Press)

With General Motors closing several plants on both sides of the border, the manufacturing industry in Windsor-Essex is working to learn the effects of the closures.

According to sales manager Tim Galbraith at Cavalier Tool and Manufacturing — which has clients who are tier 1 suppliers to GM —  it won't hurt their business significantly.

"Nonetheless, every little bit counts," said Tim Galbraith. "We're a growing company and we can't afford to lose business." Where he does see trouble is if their clients have trouble staying solvent with the disappearance of GM.

General Motors announced it will be shutting down the Oshawa, Ont. assembly plant, along with the ones in Detroit, Mich. and Warren, Ohio. Transmission factories will also be unallocated in 2019 in White Marsh, Md. and Warren, Mich.

The closures will affect 2,522 hourly workers in Canada and 3,301 in the U.S.

"It's millions of dollars worth of business that will not be done in Windsor," said Galbraith.

Sales manager of Cavalier Tool and Manufacturing, Tim Galbraith, says Cavalier will be affected if his clients start to have trouble staying solvent. (Jason Viau/CBC)

CEO of Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation, Stephen MacKenzie, said there's not much they can do when it comes to addressing the closures directly.

However, he said WEEDC would be the coordinator for any government incentives for affected companies.

Aside from that, MacKenzie said they will also "work with [companies] to diversify business, to source other business."

Changing auto industry

In GM's announcement of the plant closures, the company talks about transforming their business to focus more on electric and autonomous vehicles over the next two years.

Jason Stein, publisher of Detroit-based Automotive News, said the shift in product will become more commonplace moving forward.

"Looking ahead, there will be more fuel efficient options on the horizon," he said. "Everybody's kind of moving in the same direction."

Stein also speculated GM's move is an attempt to "convince Wall Street that they can be a highly profitable, highly sought-after, non-traditional car company."

So far, it seems like the company has been able to move their stocks. GM's shares closed at $35.93 Friday and rose to a high of $38.75 Monday with news of plant closures.

Windsor mayor Drew Dilkens says he will be speaking to Oshawa's mayor to see if there is anything he or the Auto Mayors caucus can do to help. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

'Very, very troubling'

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens, who is part of the Auto Mayors caucus, said they will be speaking to Oshawa's mayor to find out if there's anything they can do to help them.

He said they're also working to see what suppliers are in Windsor to find out what the magnitude of the impact will be locally.

"It's definitely a difficult day," said Dilkens. He mentioned perhaps there could be a way to keep the Oshawa plant running by placing a product there.

While he doesn't see any indication that Fiat-Chrysler will leave the city, Windsor is not exempt from a plant closure forever, according to Dilkens.

"At the end of the day, this could happen here one day. And the thought of that happening here one day is very very troubling."

With files from Dale Molnar, Jonathan Pinto and Jason Viau