GM plant in Oklahoma City could be vulnerable for closure

Thursday, November 17th 2005, 11:49 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Oklahoma City's General Motors Corp. assembly plant is viewed by some analysts as vulnerable for closure under company plans to close some facilities and reduce its employment force.

``We are going to have to close additional assembly and component plants and reduce our manufacturing employment levels by 25,000 or more jobs,'' GM spokesman Dan Flores said. ``Obviously at this point in time, we've not made any announcements.''

In a ``state of the industry'' report, Global Insight said the Oklahoma City plant could close by 2007 if GM moves production to a sister plant in Moraine, Ohio.

Catherine Madden with Global Insight in Lexington, Mass., said GM and Ford Motor Co. want to get rid of excess manufacturing capacity.

``Both Ford and GM will be looking at (United Auto Workers union) negotiations in 2007 to finalize closures,'' Madden said. ``But they may kill a product and essentially shutter or idle a plant before then.''

Under its national contract with the UAW, GM cannot close plants. But it can idle factories and keep paying the hourly workers.

About 2,400 GM workers make seven-passenger versions of the Chevrolet TrailBlazer and GMC Envoy sport utility vehicles in Oklahoma City. The Ohio factory makes five-passenger versions.

GM hasn't announced a product for the Oklahoma City plant beyond the 2007 model year.

``When an assembly plant does not have future product lined up, obviously that leaves it very vulnerable,'' Madden said. ``But it is possible to consolidate assembly at one facility, say Moraine, and move a new product into Oklahoma City because of the investment at that facility.''

However, Madden said if GMs line of midsized, cross-over sport utility vehicles catches on after they debut in late 2006, Oklahoma City could be a candidate to get overflow assembly work. The platform - code-named Lambda - will be built at GM's new Lansing, Mich., plant and includes the Saturn Outlook and the GMC Acadia. GMs minivans also could move to that platform.

``If all of this happens in 2008-2009, it is very likely another facility will be needed to support that type of volume,'' Madden said. ``Maybe that means a plant that's on the vulnerable list like Oklahoma City, which is newer and has some investment there, might be a strategic geographic location.''