General Motors of Canada, Limited (“GM Canada”), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Detroit, Michigan-headquartered General Motors Company, manufactures brands and models of General Motors cars and trucks, and distributes the full line of General Motors’ North American models to affiliated dealerships in Canada. North American brands comprise Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac and GMC. Elsewhere in the world, General Motors Company also manufactures vehicles under the Opel, Vauxhall, Holden, Isuzu, Baojun, Jiefang, and Wuling brands.
The Company is committed to increasing its share of the motor vehicle market, improving the quality of its products and the level of customer satisfaction they attain, and leading the automotive industry in the development of advanced energy-saving technologies.
GM Canada employs 10,000 at two car assembly plants and other manufacturing facilities as well as supporting facilities. Its headquarters are in Oshawa, Ontario. Vehicles are sold across the country through an affiliated dealership network employing 23,000 people.
The Company’s largest operation is the Oshawa Car Assembly Plant, which consists of the Flexible Manufacturing Line and the Consolidated Line. Adjoining it is the Oshawa Metal Centre, which produces more than 80,000 parts per day, primarily for GM Canada’s own needs. In addition, Oshawa is the location of GM Canada’s Canadian Regional Engineering Centre, where vehicle design and development is undertaken, in particular on chassis and body sub-systems. This centre also provides engineering support for vehicles currently in production.
GM Canada’s CAMI Assembly Plant is a car assembly plant located in Ingersoll, Ontario. St. Catharines, Ontario, is the location of the Company’s engine plant produces V-8 and V-6 engines and engine parts.
The Company’s National Parts Distribution Centre is located in Woodstock, Ontario. In the central Ontario town of Kapuskasing, the Company’s Kapuskasing Cold Weather Development Centre allows General Motors to test its vehicles in extreme winter conditions.
The Company offers hybrid (dual gasoline and electric engine) technology on certain pickup truck and sports utility models to increase fuel economy. Its Chevrolet Volt, which was recognized as 2012 North American Car of the Year and World Green Car of the Year, is an extended-range, electric vehicle which offers up to 80 kilometers of gasoline-free driving, and a further 500 kilometers of extended driving. eAssist™ technology, available on certain models, works with regenerative braking and provides automatic engine shut-off and electric boosting during acceleration. Some models are available with engines designed to run on either regular fuel or E85 biofuel, blended fuel which contains up to 85% ethanol. GM Canada is researching and further developing these technologies as well as technologies such as Active Fuel Management (cylinder deactivation) and fuel cells.
Most Company models offer OnStar, which provides safety, emergency-response, and convenience features such as turn-by-turn navigational assistance, location assistance, hands-free mobile phone calling, automatic crash response, remote diagnostics, and technology for tracking and slowing stolen vehicles.
The Company plays an active role in the cultural and athletic life of the country. Chevrolet Canada has become a premier partner and the exclusive automotive partner of the 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games to be held in Toronto. Through its Buick division the Company sponsored the 2011 Rogers Cup professional tennis event in Toronto and Montreal. As official auto sponsor national partner for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, GM Canada provided vehicles, services and marketing support, with a total commitment of $53 million. It was principal sponsor of the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal for the years 2000 through 2009, and for more than 20 years was the principal sponsor of the Stratford Festival in Stratford, Ontario.
Under the Chevrolet badge are the Corvette and Camaro performance cars, Silverado full-size pickup and heavy duty pickup, Avalanche sports utility truck, Suburban and Tahoe sports utility vehicles, Colorado mid-size pickup, Express full-size van, Equinox crossover utility vehicle, Impala full-size sedan, Malibu mid-size sedan, Orlando compact multi-purpose vehicle, Cruze compact sedan, Sonic subcompact sedan and coupe, and Volt all-electric coupe. The Company’s top-selling Cruze was introduced in North America in 2010. The Equinox crossover is assembled at the Company’s Ingersoll plant, while the Oshawa Car Assembly Plant assembles the Camaro coupe and convertible and the Impala sedan. In 2011 Chevrolet celebrated its 100th anniversary.
The Buick portfolio comprises the flagship LaCrosse mid-size luxury sedan, Regal mid-size luxury sports sedan, Verano compact luxury sedan, and Enclave crossover utility vehicle. The Oshawa Car Assembly Plant assembles the Regal.
The GMC lineup comprises the Sierra full-size pickup and heavy duty pickup, Yukon sports utility vehicle, Canyon mid-size pickup, Savana full-size van, and Acadia and Terrain crossover utility vehicles. The popular Terrain crossover is assembled at the Company’s Ingersoll plant.
The luxurious, technologically advanced Cadillac marque encompasses the XTS full-size sedan, CTS mid-size sedan, coupe and sport wagon, SRX crossover utility vehicle, and Escalade sports utility vehicle. Production of the XTS commenced at the Oshawa Car Assembly Plant in 2012.
General Motors of Canada Limited has been a mainstay of the Canadian manufacturing sector for close to a century. Over the years it has met with many challenges, adapted to new circumstances, and evolved.
The Company traces its history back to the McLaughlin Carriage Company, which was founded in Enniskillen, Ontario in 1869. In 1876 the carriage company moved to the growing community of Oshawa due to the availability of a main rail line for shipping production, banks for extending credit, a skilled labour force from which the company could draw its employees, and critical suppliers such as iron works, cabinet makers and tanneries. The carriage company’s reputation for quality extended across Canada and made its products achieved success in the market.
Robert McLaughlin’s sons Robert Samuel McLaughlin and George McLaughlin, who had joined their father in the carriage business, noted in due course that the automobile was increasingly taking the place of horse and carriage on the roads and began investigating the feasibility of expanding the family’s interests into automobile production. As a result of these investigations, the McLaughlin Motor Car Company Limited was incorporated in November 1907 with R. Samuel McLaughlin as President. The company was set to build McLaughlin automobiles using engines acquired from a supplier, Buick Motor Company of Flint, Michigan.
At that time the company’s engineer fell ill. McLaughlin contacted William C. Durant, head of the Buick Motor Company, to request the services of an engineer. Durant, spotting a business opportunity, journeyed personally to Oshawa with a proposal. He proposed that the McLaughlin Motor Company drop plans to produce a McLaughlin automobile and instead produce the “McLaughlin Buick”. This automobile would consist of a Buick engine and other Buick parts acquired from the Buick Motor Company on a cost-plus basis and incorporated into a vehicle built by the McLaughlin Motor Car Company.
R. Samuel McLaughlin agreed to Durant’s proposal. Soon McLaughlin Buicks were rolling out of the Oshawa plant. In 1909 the arrangement was strengthened through an exchange of stock in the McLaughlin Motor Car Company for stock in the Buick Motor Company.
In a short time the McLaughlins’ Buick stock was exchanged for stock in General Motors Holding Company, which was formed in 1909 under Durant’s leadership to group together Buick and newly-acquired automobile and truck brands. These included or would soon include Oldsmobile, Oakland, Cadillac and GMC Truck. Oakland would be discontinued in 1931, while Oldsmobile would remain a fixture in the General Motors brand portfolio until its discontinuation following the 2002 model year. Buick, Cadillac and GMC remain core General Motors brands to this day.
In 1915 the McLaughlins formed the Chevrolet Motor Company of Canada Ltd. to produce Chevrolets in Oshawa for Chevrolet Motor Company, a company which had been co-founded by Durant in 1911. Chevrolet, too, remains a core brand to this day.
The increasing integration of the McLaughlin Motor Car Company with the expanding General Motors conglomerate led to merger talk. R. Samuel McLaughlin favoured the idea because he was well aware that a small automobile manufacturer like his would be incapable of competing against bigger companies able to undertake large-scale assembly line production with its greater efficiencies. Thus in 1918 the McLaughlin Motor Company Limited was merged with Chevrolet Motor Company of Canada Ltd. under the name General Motors of Canada Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of what had become General Motors Corporation. R. Samuel McLaughlin became President of the new Canadian company.
In 1919 an additional plant was established in Walkerville, Ontario, now part of Windsor. This location manufactured engines and axles. 1919 was also the beginning of truck production at GM Canada with the manufacture of Chevrolet trucks in Oshawa; GMC truck production followed in 1923.
By 1921 GM Canada was assembling Buick, Oldsmobile and Oakland passenger automobiles at the Oshawa plant. Cadillac was added to its production starting in 1923 and continuing until 1936. Oakland’s companion make Pontiac was added in 1926. Cadillac’s companion make La Salle was produced in Oshawa between 1927 and 1935. This scaling up of production during the 1920’s led to the massive expansion of the plant facilities in downtown Oshawa. The proliferation of models and styles during the 1920’s was the result of a change in the way automobiles were regarded: no longer seen only as those marvels of engineering that had replaced the horse, automobiles were now regarded as consumer products designed to meet people’s needs.
By June 1928 GM Canada had produced 500,000 cars and the Oshawa plant had reached a capacity of 750 cars per day and a labour force of 6,500.
In 1928 the Walkerville plant, which had been idle from 1923, became the site of truck body assembly, and later truck and bus manufacturing and automobile engine manufacturing. Starting in 1963, it became engaged in the manufacture of automatic transmissions. The plant ceased operations in 2010.
Regina was the site of the next GM Canada plant. The plant began production in 1927 but was closed in 1929 following the onset of the difficult economic conditions which would become known as the Great Depression.
In 1929 GM Canada acquired The McKinnon Industries Limited and its plant in St. Catharines, Ontario. A second plant was added in St. Catharines in 1954. Over the years these plants underwent numerous additions and modifications and were involved in the manufacture of powertrains, rear axles, transmissions, engine castings and many other motor vehicle components. During the period 1953 through 1995 the plant housed a major foundry facility. The older of the two facilities, which in later decades focused on components, was closed in 2010.
The Great Depression, which lasted until the end of the 1930’s, saw Company production fall by roughly half and employment fall to 5,300 by 1935. Conditions began to improve toward at the end of that decade and vehicle sales started to rise. In 1938 GM Canada achieved the milestone of having produced one million vehicles.
Soon after the beginning of the Second World War in 1939, GM Canada began producing military equipment including transport trucks, fire trucks, naval gun mounts, artillery pieces, tank hulls, and warplane fuselages, utilizing the facilities in Oshawa, St. Catharines and Walkerville. A major Company product was the Chevrolet Canadian Military Pattern (CMP) truck, which through its many specialized variants served the British and Canadian and a number of other armed forces during and after the war. Under the name Border Cities Industries Ltd., an additional plant was constructed in Windsor and was devoted primarily to the manufacture of machine guns. Due to war commitments, GM Canada suspended civilian vehicle production completely during 1942 and did not resume it until September 1945.
1945 marked the retirement of R. Samuel McLaughlin from active management. He continued to hold the position of Chairman of the Board and did so until his death.
In 1950 the General Motors Diesel Division opened newly-constructed facilities in London, Ontario for the production of diesel locomotives. The following year military production was added with the assembly of M135 transport trucks for the Canadian Army. Beginning in 1979, the Diesel Division supplied the Canadian Armed Forces with a succession of wheeled armoured vehicles, namely the Cougar, Grizzly, Husky, Bison and LAV III. General Motors Corporation sold its defence production operations in 2003 and its diesel locomotive business in 2005. The London facilities were sold as part of these transactions.
The London plant was also the home to GM Canada’s bus manufacturing operations, which commenced in 1962 for what was known at the time as GM Truck and Coach Division. A second bus plant opened in Saint-Eustache, Québec in 1965. Bus production continued until 1987, when General Motors Corporation sold its bus manufacturing operations, including the Saint-Eustache plant.
In 1950 construction began on a new plant complex at the south end of Oshawa. The city had grown up about the original collection of plants in the downtown area and those plants could no longer be expanded. When the new plant was completed, it was the largest automobile manufacturing plant in Canada.
A plant was opened in Toronto in 1952 to manufacture Frigidaire home appliances, a business acquired by General Motors Corporation in 1919. In 1963 automobile parts manufacture was also initiated at the plant. Appliance manufacturing was phased out in 1970, and in 1974 parts production gave way to the production of full-sized vans. The plant was closed in 1993.
The 1960’s was a time of plant openings. In 1965 a plant was established in Windsor, Ontario to manufacture automotive trim. This plant and the North Plant in downtown Oshawa would be sold to an investor group in 1996 as part of a trend at General Motors Corporation toward the outsourcing of component manufacturing. GM Canada’s Oshawa truck plant was established in 1965 in a facility beside the existing automobile manufacturing plant at the south end of the city. The truck plant would continue in operation until 2009. In 1966 a vehicle assembly plant was opened in Sainte-Thérèse, Québec, in time to produce vehicles for the 1966 model year. The plant would close in 2002.
These plant openings were in large part the Company’s response to a significant event which took place in January 1965. The signing of the Canada-United States Automotive Products Agreement, or Auto Pact, removed tariffs on vehicles and parts manufactured by General Motors Corporation, Ford Motor Company and Chrysler Corporation in the United States and Canada. Instead of plants in each of the two countries manufacturing vehicles for that country alone, plants in each country began specializing in particular models which were sold in both countries. The result was a huge increase in trade in finished automobiles between the two countries. In Canada, plant expansions and new plants accommodated this new need to serve the vast U.S. market in addition to the Canadian market.
During the 1960’s and early 1970’s GM Canada was marketing not only vehicles from its own plants and those from plants in the United States, but also vehicles imported from General Motors operations in Britain and Germany.
In 1969 all of GM Canada’s Canadian operations, some of which had been set up as separately incorporated businesses, were consolidated into the Company and became its divisions.
In 1972 Company founder R. Samuel McLaughlin passed away at the age of 100. During his lifetime and for many years following his passing, his philanthropy enriched the City of Oshawa and other communities. Major contributions included the Oshawa General Hospital and the Oshawa Public Library, facilities for the Oshawa YWCA and Boy Scouts of Canada, and the McLaughlin Planetarium in Toronto.
A last link with GM Canada’s roots was severed in 1973 when the West Plant in downtown Oshawa and its land were sold to the City of Oshawa for redevelopment. A portion of that plant, built in 1899, had been the final home of the carriage business under the McLaughlins. Also in 1973 GM Canada’s cold weather testing facility in Kapuskasing, Ontario was opened.
The oil embargo of 1973 led to a significant shortage of gasoline and consequently higher fuel prices. At the same time, Japanese automobile manufacturers began competing in the North American motor vehicle market on a large scale. As a consequence, General Motors models were scaled down in size and weight and provided with more fuel efficient engines. For the 1976 model year General Motors introduced the subcompact Chevrolet Chevette and later the equivalent Pontiac model known in Canada as the Pontiac Acadian. On the plant floor, more automated methods of production were introduced.
At the dawn of the 1980’s, General Motors Corporation converted its passenger vehicle line to roomier front wheel drive models such as the Chevrolet Citation, with its transversely-mounted engine and unibody design, followed by the vehicles such as the Chevrolet Cavalier and the Chevrolet Celebrity. More aerodynamic designs, greater fuel economy, reduced standard engine sizes and lowered exhaust emissions became the hallmarks of the new vehicles.
During the mid and late 1980’s in South Oshawa the truck plant was expanded, a new stamping plant was built, radiator manufacturing was introduced, and the two car plants there were modernized and converted for the production of new models. This collection of plant facilities was designated as the GM Autoplex. The facilities utilized highly automated manufacturing systems and adopted new production techniques including work stations and robotic transport vehicles rather than an assembly line, and a just-in-time inventory system which in turn gave rise to a greater use of outsourced manufacturing.
In 1989 a new plant was opened in Ingersoll, Ontario under the name Cami Automotive Inc., a joint venture between GM Canada and Suzuki Motor Co. Ltd. of Japan. In its early days, plant production consisted on Chevrolet, Pontiac and Suzuki sub-compact cars, and a small Suzuki sports utility vehicle. GM Canada would acquire Suzuki’s 50% share in the operation in 2009.
A number of non-core vehicle brands and models were marketed by GM Canada beginning in the late 1980’s. Isuzu light trucks and cars were sold through selected GM dealership franchises beginning in 1986. With the parent company’s launching of Saturn automobile production and its acquisition of a controlling interest in Saab AB’s car division in 1990, Saturn and Saab automobiles joined Isuzu in 1991 and were sold in Canada through Saturn-Saab-Isuzu dealerships. Compact vehicles under the Geo brand were sold through dealerships selling the Chevrolet brand between the 1992 and 2002 model years. Likewise, the Canada-only Asüna brand compact vehicles were sold through dealerships selling the Pontiac brand in 1993 and 1994 model years.
In 1999 the Canadian Regional Engineering Centre opened in Oshawa. This was the first permanent development centre to be opened by GM Canada and joined General Motors Corporation’s three other regional development centres in North America.
The recession of 2008-2009 had a profoundly negative effect on many sectors in North America, including the automotive industry. General Motors Corporation, like other car manufacturers, faced a very steep decline in motor vehicle sales. It was among a number of large corporations which received emergency loans from the United States federal government. Because of General Motors Corporation’s importance to the Canadian economy, it also received loans from the Canadian federal and Ontario provincial governments.
At the beginning of June 2009 General Motors Corporation voluntarily placed itself under court-approved protection from creditors to restructure its operations. At the conclusion of this brief period of protection in early July, the ongoing business of General Motors Corporation was acquired by a new corporation named General Motors Company. During the months following the launch of the new corporation, automotive brands were reduced to four through the winding down of Pontiac, Saturn and HUMMER operations and the sale of the Saab operations. The number of dealerships authorized to sell and service new General Motors products was also significantly reduced and dealerships were reorganized to become a single distribution channel in place of the previous four distribution channels. General Motors of Canada Limited underwent a similar organizational restructuring at this time but was not placed under protection from creditors.
The business reorganization, in conjunction with the rationalization of brands, a number of new or redesigned vehicles and an improving market for motor vehicles, enabled the new corporation to post strong sales results and repay its government loans in April 2010, ahead of schedule.
GM Canada advances automotive research and development in Canada through its own in-house facilities in Oshawa and Kapuskasing, Ontario, and also through partnerships with other organizations.
GM Canada is a key industrial partner within Automotive Partnership Canada, a federal program which is providing $145 million over five years to collaborative research and development activities benefitting the Canadian automobile industry. The Company is participating in research to improve software engineering methods in the automotive industry, and in research to improve the design-to-commercialization process for electric vehicles.
Also launched in 2010 was the General Motors of Canada Automotive Centre of Excellence at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa. The Company is a major partner in this independent test facility to be used in the research and development of next generation vehicles and automotive products. The centrepiece of the facility is an advanced wind tunnel in which vehicles can be tested under extreme conditions.
General Motors and a number of global computer hardware and software enterprises formed an alliance in 1999 to contribute computer-based engineering tools to educational institutions. This alliance, Partners for the Advancement of Collaborative Engineering Education (PACE), supports 56 institutions in 12 countries. In 2011 PACE, through an in-kind contribution of hardware and engineering software and related materials, established the PACE Lab at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. In 2003, PACE’s major in-kind contribution to the University of British Columbia in Vancouver brought about the establishment of a virtual engineering laboratory at that institution.