Last GM midsize trucks roll off La. assembly line

August 29, 2012
Last GM midsize trucks roll off La. assembly line
Shreveport plant closes, ending production of Colorado, Canyon
By MELISSA BURDEN / The Detroit News
General Motors Co. ended production Tuesday of the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon midsize trucks at its Shreveport Assembly Plant in Louisiana, which the Detroit automaker is closing after three decades in operation.

The last truck, a white Colorado, rolled off the line Tuesday, one of more than 4.5 million vehicles built during the plant’s lifetime. The plant, into which the automaker invested $1.2 billion about 10 years ago, had been eyed to close since 2009, as part of General Motors Corp.’s bankruptcy.

GM hasn’t said when it will launch production of its next-generation midsize pickup truck. That could leave some buyers of midsize trucks with limited options, at least for now.

“There will be a gap between the build-out of the current Colorado and the introduction of the new Colorado built at Wentzville (Mo.),” GM spokesman Tom Wilkinson said in an email. “We have encouraged dealers to add additional vehicles to inventory, but the decision on whether or not to do that is up to individual dealers.”

Sales of the Colorado and Canyon through July are up this year — 32.5 percent and 14.2 percent, respectively. That’s due in part to shoppers who have considered the two after Ford Motor Co. ceased production of its Ranger pickup and Chrysler Group LLC stopped making its Ram Dakota. At the end of July, GM had a 58-day supply of the Colorado and an 88-day supply of Canyons.

At its peak, the Shreveport facility employed more than 2,500 and produced GM’s first Chevrolet S-10 pickup, the Chevy Blazer SUV and the Hummer H3. Tuesday marked the last day for most of the plant’s remaining 800 hourly and salaried employees, said Donna McLallen, spokeswoman for the Shreveport plant.

“A lot hate to see it closing…,” said Jeff Hall, UAW Local 2166 shop chair. “They were hoping that the news would change.”

GM, in a June letter to the president of the Caddo Parrish Commission in Shreveport, said it planned to lay off all 764 salaried and hourly employees. The automaker, in the letter, said it would keep some employees, for a time, to decommission the plant following the end of production. Decommissioning is expected to wrap by Dec. 1, according to GM’s letter.

GM and the UAW said some employees opted to retire. Others have accepted severance or special transition packages, and some are transferring to GM plants such as Wentzville Assembly; Spring Hill in Tennessee; and Arlington Assembly in Texas, which in June said it will add a third shift early next year.

GM announced last year that it would build a next-generation midsize truck at Wentzville; in May it broke ground on a $380 million expansion, expected to retain or create 1,260 jobs. GM has not said when production will begin on the pickups, other than it would come following the launch of all-new 2014 full-size pickups.

While GM ideally would have liked to have something to fill the spot of the Colorado and Canyon now, senior analyst Michelle Krebs doesn’t think the lag between midsize trucks will hurt GM too much. The Colorado hasn’t sold more than 5,000 a month since mid 2008.

“Those volumes are just so small, they really aren’t going to make much of a difference,” she said.

RACER (Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response) Trust, established by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to liquidate and clean up “old” GM properties abandoned following the automaker’s bankruptcy, has owned the Shreveport plant since March 2011.

Bruce Rasher, redevelopment manager for RACER Trust, said the trust is marketing the plant and he expects it will be converted into multi-tenant space. Rasher said GM must give RACER a 90-day notice of its intent to vacate the property. The trust has not received that yet.

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