WENTZVILLE, MO – General Motors has announced a massive restructuring plan, calling for the closure of five plants in North America and stirring anxiety for workers here.
GM’s new plan is to stop making so many cars, from Cadillacs to Buicks to Chevys.
Certain models will no longer be produced, including the Chevrolet Volt, Impala and Cruze, the Buick LaCrosse, and the Cadillac CT6 and XTS.
The plants that make them will be closed: plants in Detroit; Oshawa, Ontario; Warren, Ohio; White Marsh, Maryland; and Warren, Michigan.
Wentzville’s saving grace is that its workers do not make cars.
They make work vans and pickups.
Wentzville is actually hiring part-time workers, not laying people off.
About 14,000 elsewhere, 8,000 salaried, 6,000 hourly-factory workers will be losing their jobs or be reassigned by the end of 2020.
The plan would save GM an estimated $6 billion a year.
The blowback for GM has come fast and furious, from the mayor of Detroit to a plant manager in Canada, to President of the United States.
“I spoke with her (GM CEO Mary Parra) when I heard they were closing and I said 'you know, this country's done a lot for General Motors. You'd better get back in there soon,” President Donald Trump said.
Workers at the Wentzville plant about 40 miles outside of St. Louis were relieved but hardly celebrating.
“We hate it when it affects our brothers,” said Wentzville worker, Rich Chadd.
The Wentzville plant workforce of more than 4,000 is larger than that of any of the plants to be closed by at least 1,000 workers. Its products, Chevy Express, and GMC Savana work vans plus components for Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon pickups, don’t seem to fit GM’s new motto of “zero crashes, zero emissions, zero congestion”. The motto signals a focus on electric and self-driving vehicles. GM plans to spend $1 billion on the development of self-driving vehicles this year.
Still, the demand for what Wentzville makes is strong.
“Our pickup truck is the greatest pick up there is, so I’m not worried about it,” Chadd said. “The van we make, nobody else makes that van. They are all those tall European styles. These are work vans.”
“It’s not good to hear about any closures,” said Wentzville worker, Chris Rose.
“They already announced they’re going to go after some salary jobs and then trickle down to some salary jobs but the Wentzville plant from what I’m hearing is going to be ok.”
At least for now.
Dozens of workers from other plants had already been reassigned to Wentzville, workers said.