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Oshawa's Loss Could Be Michigan's Gain

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Detroit, MIMichigan's economy has been hit hard in the past few years, due in large part to the decline of the automotive industry and the onset of the US economic crisis. Now a dispute appears to be brewing between General Motors (GM) assembly plants in Michigan and Canada. It remains to be seen whether Michigan employment laws can or will be brought into play to resolve the situation in Michigan's favor.

According to the January 7 edition of the Globe and Mail, the issue at hand involves the popular Chevrolet Impala, a car assembled exclusively at the sprawling GM assembly complex in Oshawa, Ontario. However, that exclusivity appears to be threatened, according to comments released January 6 by the Automotive Parts Manufacturers' Association of Canada. APMA issued a notice to its members that GM plans to assemble the updated Impala at their plants in Oshawa and Hamtramck, Michigan.

According to APMA, the split production was supposed to commence in tandem with the introduction of the redesigned Impala in 2013.

The change could be a windfall to idled automotive workers at Hamtramck, a city near Detroit. Oshawa, however, is crying foul. Chris Buckley, president of CAW Local 222 was adamant in defending his 3000 active members and another 1200 currently on layoff. "We own the Impala," he said.

"If General Motors is going to make a decision to source it anywhere else, they have a fight on their hands," Buckley continued. "The Impala is a Canadian-made vehicle; we own the rights to produce it in Canada and we're going to continue to produce it in Canada."

While confirming that it will maintain its mandated 16 percent Canadian production requirement, GM neither confirmed nor denied the rumors of a planned split production for the Impala.

GM recently announced that the Buick Regal will be added to the Oshawa plant currently producing the Camaro and that two more vehicles will be added to that plant later. The APMA statement identified the vehicles as the Cadillac XTS and the Impala.

The Impala is currently assembled exclusively at the Oshawa plant and not in Michigan, but the updated version of the car will be assembled, starting in 2013, at the new 'flex' plant in Oshawa—from which GM appears to be considering a split with Michigan. While the CAW is lobbying GM to keep the current plant open beyond 2013, so far there appears to be no plan to do so—taking GM Oshawa from a high of three plants at once down to one.

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