By Kalea Hall
Leaders of the local United Auto Workers unions are hopeful the move to combine two unions will benefit the future of General Motors Lordstown.
Workers at the complex, where the Chevrolet Cruze is produced, were informed Friday that UAW Local 1714, the fabrication plant union, would merge with UAW 1112, the assembly plant union.
“It was a very difficult decision made by the joint leadership simply because it was a large cost savings for GM by having the two unions combined,” said Glenn Johnson, president of UAW Local 1112. “By joining forces, we will be stronger together.”
The Lordstown facility is the only GM plant with two unions representing workers. Having two unions led to increased costs for the automaker, including a duplication of services within the complex, Johnson said.
Local 1112 has been in existence for 51 years and Local 1714 for 47 years. Combined, they represent 3,000 hourly workers at the plant. A timeline for when the two will combine into one union, Local 1112 with Johnson as president, is to be determined.
“It goes back to making tough decisions that can better us in the future,” said Robert Morales, president of UAW Local 1714. “We have proud retirees and active members, and it’s going to be a challenging time. Knowing that it betters our situation, it somewhat makes the situation a little better.”
The UAW received a commitment from GM that as long as the Chevrolet Cruze, a compact car, is built in North America, it will be at the GM Lordstown Assembly Complex.
Lordstown has produced the Cruze since 2010. In 2016, Lordstown launched production of the next-generation Cruze. The Cruze Hatchback is built at the Ramos Arizpe, Mexico, plant for the U.S. market.
“We are pretty pleased,” Johnson said. “We will be in the best possible position when they [GM] announce a [new] Cruze or something else.”
The union did not receive any future production dates for the Cruze.
GM released this statement on the announcement: “Lordstown employees have been notified of planned adjustments to manufacturing and administrative operations at the complex. Hourly employees will be receiving additional information pertaining to these plans from their union leadership.”
While the small-car slide continues, analysts still say they remain important.
“We still think despite the decline of small cars that there’s a place for them in the market,” said Michelle Krebs, senior analyst for Autotrader. “It continues to be a very large segment. It’s a very important segment because it is the entry point for many first-time new-car buyers, and it’s a place where budget-minded buyers can buy a new car versus a used one.”
But, the trend away from compact cars led to the loss of third shift at the Lordstown complex.
Friday’s meeting took place before next week’s down week at the plant. Production also was down last week. The week of Oct. 2 was scheduled as a down week, but GM adjusted the schedule and production is back on that week.
GM is not alone in production shifting.
In June, Ford said it would shift its production of its compact car, the Focus, to China in 2019. The Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Mich., is where the Focus is currently assembled. The Wayne plant will be converted in an $850 million investment to build the Ranger midsize pickup and Bronco SUV.
This week Ford announced it planned down weeks at some of its plants through the end of the year to match production with customer demand. Two plants in Mexico and three in the U.S. are the plants affected.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles stopped building the Dodge Dart in October 2016 and the Chrysler 200 in December 2016.
“We have seen inventories build despite heavy incentives forcing the automakers to trim the production of cars,” Krebs said.
Through August, there have been a total of 110,808 Cruze sedans sold, a 9.8 percent drop from last year’s sales of 122,794.
Including sales of the Mexico-built Cruze Hatchback, overall Cruze sales have increased 9.1 percent to 133,966 from 122,796 sales made through August last year.
The Cruze is the first domestic compact car to receive the title of “Top Pick” from Consumer Reports in more than a decade. From 2013 through 2016, the Subaru Impreza took the title.
J.D. Power’s study for Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout ranked the Cruze in fifth place in the small-car segment, up from 18th place last year. This was the second-largest APEAL improvement in the industry.