General Motors has added insult to the economic injury it is causing the Mahoning Valley with the contraction of its car-assembly plant in Lordstown.
On Monday, the 52-year-old home of a long list of top-selling automobiles, including today’s Chevrolet Cruze, will be reduced to one shift with 1,500 workers. Two other shifts have been eliminated, one as of Friday and the other in January 2017. A total of 2,700 well-paying jobs were lost.
But the fallout isn’t confined to the cavernous complex on the Ohio Turnpike at Ellsworth-Bailey Road. The supply chain has also been rattled. Hundreds of workers have received pink slips from companies doing business with GM Lordstown.
That’s the economic injury visited upon the Valley as a result of the giant automaker slashing production of the highly ranked Cruze.
The insult was revealed Friday, just as the second shift was ending. GM has gone to Mexico to build a sleeker version of the iconic Chevrolet Blazer.
According to Bloomberg News, the redesigned mid-size sport utility vehicle will hit the market next year.
“The launch will revive a model that went away in 1994 when the boxy, truck-like SUV was named the Tahoe,” Bloomberg reported.
But here’s the kicker that should upset Valley residents who have been unwavering in their support of General Motors, in general, and the Lordstown assembly complex, in particular: The new and improved Blazer is a car-based utility, rather than truck based.
It will be assembled in the company’s plant in Ramos Arizpe, Mexico.
If that isn’t enough to get your blood boiling, consider what GM spokeswoman Katie Amann revealed last week: The company was planning the vehicle years ago when all of its SUV plants were running on three shifts.
Amann added that Ramos Arizpe is the only assembly plant with enough capacity.
And here’s the poison pill the Valley must swallow: The plant in Mexico builds the Chevrolet Cruze hatchback. The Chevy Sonic is also made there, as are propulsion systems. The complex also houses stamping operations.
Bad business decision
Why get all bent out of shape over GM’s decision to build the Blazer in Mexico? Because it’s a bad business decision.
First, the Lordstown complex is ideally suited for such a product. The Valley workforce is unmatched, as evidenced by the high ratings in quality the Cruze has received from independent analysts.
Second, retooling of the assembly plant could have been accomplished with few complications.
Third, the Blazer would have had a “Made In America” label.
Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, there would have been no danger of a tariff being applied to the vehicle.
President Donald Trump has declared war on American manufacturers that have relocated plants abroad at the expense of domestic production.
Trump, whose America First stance struck a chord with blue-collar workers in regions like the Valley, has harshly criticized the U.S. auto industry for building vehicles abroad and then selling them domestically.
The president has threatened to punish those companies that have sacrificed American workers for cheap labor in Mexico and other countries.
Trump’s push to dismantle the North American Free Trade Agreement means that products from Canada and Mexico could become much more expensive in the U.S.
General Motors has been aware for several years that the demand for cars was declining while SUVs and trucks were gaining in popularity.
Hence, the Cruze, which replaced the successful Chevrolet Cobalt, has fallen victim to changing consumer tastes. More than 1.3 million Cruzes have been built since the high quality, technologically advanced, affordable vehicle was launched in 2010.
The fact that the decision-makers in Detroit will not give the Valley a straight answer with regard to the future of the Lordstown complex is cause for concern.
In April, Steve Majoros, Chevrolet marketing director for cars and crossovers, made the following statement when the company unveiled the 2019 Cruze sedan and hatchback: “Cruze is a cornerstone of Chevrolet’s car strategy, bringing new customers to the brand.”
But the new and improved Chevrolet Blazer being built in Mexico shows where GM’s priorities lie.
Republican Trump, who did extremely well in the predominantly Democratic Valley in the 2016 election, should demand an explanation from GM for its decision to build the Blazer in Mexico and not in Lordstown. Ohio, USA.