The handwriting is on the wall of the massive General Motors car assembly complex in Lordstown, but the message remains unclear.
On Friday, GM announced that the second shift will be eliminated in two months. This follows 10 down weeks of production of the compact Chevrolet Cruze that has been built in the Mahoning Valley since September 2010.
In January 2017, the third shift was discontinued because of declining sales of the small car.
The decrease in production has resulted in the loss of 2,700 jobs.
There will be 1,500 working the only remaining shift after June 15.
General Motors has built more than 1.3 million Cruzes since the car was launched eight years ago to replace the successful Chevrolet Cobalt.
However, for the past couple of years, demand for the Cruze, a high quality, technologically advanced, affordable vehicle has been waning.
The Cruze is a victim of relatively low gas prices that have spurred buyer interest in GM trucks and SUVs.
Friday’s announcement of the elimination of the second shift prompts these questions:
Does the existence of only one shift after June 15 to build the Chevrolet Cruze, once a top-seller in GM’s fleet, mean a winding down of the plant?
Does the elimination of the third shift last year and now the second shift signify a step toward the retooling of the assembly plant in preparation for another product to replace the Cruze?
Does the decrease in the number of workers from 4,200 when all three shifts were in place to 1,500 with only one shift suggest an uncertain future for the 52-year-old auto manufacturing facility?
We pose those questions because we, along with the residents of the Mahoning Valley, have been kept in the dark about GM’s future plans for the Lordstown complex.
Our appeals in this space to GM Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra and other decision-makers in Detroit for information have been ignored.
We have long argued that this region has been a loyal supporter of the giant automaker and, therefore, deserves to be treated with respect.
Keeping us in the dark about the future isn’t respectful.
We are well aware that decisions about new products are made over several years, which means GM knows what the future holds for the Lordstown complex.
The company is keeping this region on tenterhooks by dragging out the decision on the Cruze. If the compact car, which has received high marks from industry analysts, isn’t selling, how long will the company keep producing it?
The many questions surrounding the future of automobile production in this region demands the attention of Republican Gov. John R. Kasich, who will be leaving office at the end of the year, and of JobsOhio, the state’s privatized economic development initiative.
The elimination of the second shift at the Lordstown facility will bring about widespread economic pain. The loss of the 1,500 jobs – in addition to the 1,200 that disappeared with the end of the third shift – will negatively impact the operating budgets of the village of Lordstown and the Lordstown School District. Trumbull County will also feel the economic and social pain of the contraction.
Gov. Kasich has the ability to arrange a meeting with company CEO Barra to elicit answers to the many questions being asked today.
The governor, who has long shown a commitment to this region despite its deep Democratic roots, must know he is the only “outsider” who can find out what’s going.
If GM has made a decision to discontinue the Chevrolet Cruze and replace it with another product, an economic incentive package from the state of Ohio would go a long way toward sealing the deal.
JobsOhio would be the appropriate entity to work with GM to ensure its continued presence in the Mahoning Valley.
We have previously called on the governor to get involved. Now, with only one shift remaining in the cavernous plant in Lordstown, we urge the governor’s intercession.
Kasich should make GM an offer it would be hard-pressed to refuse.