A 2010 file photo of the Lordstown plant making the first-generation Cruze.
Photo: AP

The reported closure of General Motors’ plant in Oshawa, Canada and the apparent death of the Chevrolet Volt may only be the tip of the iceberg. Now local news reports claim that GM’s Lordstown plant in Warren, Ohio—home of the Chevrolet Cruze and only the Chevrolet Cruze—could be shut down as early as March. (Update: This has been confirmed by GM.)

Ohio TV station WFMJ and local paper The Vindicator say all workers at the plant have been called there for a meeting today. Sources told the TV station that GM plans to close the plant entirely in March 2019.

An email to GM reps from Jalopnik was not immediately returned, but we’ll update this post if they get back to us.

(Update: In a press release that went live as this post went up, the automaker confirmed the Lordstown plant will close in 2019 along with four other North American facilities.

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From the statement: “In the past four years, GM has refocused capital and resources to support the growth of its crossovers, SUVs and trucks, adding shifts and investing $6.6 billion in U.S. plants that have created or maintained 17,600 jobs. With changing customer preferences in the U.S. and in response to market-related volume declines in cars, future products will be allocated to fewer plants next year.”)

The plant in 1998.
Photo: AP

The Lordstown plant has been open since 1966 and currently employs about 1,600 people working one shift, per GM. That’s down quite a bit from the 4,500 workers it had just a few years ago, but remains an important employer in that region.

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As we’ve reported before, GM is actually doing quite well at the moment, turning better quarterly profits than Wall Street analysts have expected. But it’s also been actively cutting costs, offering buyouts to to 18,000 salaried workers in North America alone and restructuring its entire global operation. This, industry observers and sources have said, is to prepare for huge R&D costs as it shifts toward electrification and autonomy, and hedges against a possible economic downturn in 2019.

So it’s not tremendously surprising that Lordstown may be on the chopping block. As I mentioned earlier, it only makes the Cruze on just one shift, at a time when trucks and SUVs dominate the market.

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From that Vindicator story:

Industry analysts are already plotting out possible targets for GM, including its sprawling Lordstown plant in northeastern Ohio. The car produced there is also is built in Mexico. The once-bustling factory already has lost two of its three shifts and 3,000 union jobs since the beginning of last year.

But moving that car, the Chevrolet Cruze, south of the border brings the risk of provoking a backlash from President Donald Trump. And GM also isn’t sure whether he’ll make good on threats to impose 25 percent tariffs on vehicles imported from Canada and Mexico.

What’s more, the Cruze plant just outside Youngtown is in a Democratic and labor stronghold, where Trump won over a surprising number of voters two years ago by reaching out to what he called America’s “forgotten men and women.”

At a rally near the plant last summer, Trump talked about passing by big factories whose jobs “have left Ohio,” then told people not to sell their homes because the jobs are “coming back. They’re all coming back.”

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The plant has also faced turmoil before. It faced closure back in 1998 when it was making the Chevrolet Cavalier and Pontiac Sunfire (and had four times as many employees) but local leaders convinced GM to keep it open.

Still, more upheaval is coming from GM today, and it feels eerily familiar:

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Oy.