Cami revs engines for Terrain
AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY: Good news rides into two Oxford County communities
[ 2009-09-03 ]
A worker uses a rolling chair to assemble a vehicle at the Cami Automotive plant in Ingersoll where a new vehicle was unveiled.
Southwestern Ontario's newest vehicle was unveiled at the Cami plant here yesterday. Along with its sister crossover utility vehicle, the Equinox, it's credited with boosting sales and interest and with driving the return of 350 laid-off Cami workers by Oct. 19 -- the first 90 of which start work next week.
"This is great news," Cami president Bob Parcell said of the launch of the Terrain. "I hope we will have three shifts here, full capacity for the life cycle of this vehicle that takes us to 2014."
The Terrain is built on the same platform as the Equinox, although it has a different look and feel. The vehicles' four- cylinder option gives them better mileage than most sedans -- an ideal mix for Cami, said Mike Van Boekel, chairperson of Canadian Auto Workers Local 88 at Cami.
"We hope that sales of this new vehicle are as high just as they are for the Equinox," he said.
The Cami launch is the latest sign of stability, and possibly an upturn, in the manufacturing and automotive industries in Ontario, said CAW national president Ken Lewenza. "Things are looking up for Southwestern Ontario."
The Terrain is being launched at a "perfect time," with industry sales climbing, albeit slowly, and buyers wanting fuel-efficient rides, he added.
An automotive report released yesterday by Scotiabank supports that assertion. In Canada, car and light truck sales totalled 1.51 million units in August, topping 1.5 million units for the second consecutive month -- the best back-to-back performance since last October.
In the U.S., annualized sales were 14.1 million units last month -- up from an average of 9.8 million in the previous seven months, and the best performance since the spring of 2008. In both countries, the light truck sector, which includes the Terrain and Equinox, leads the way.
"I think we are turning the corner, but it is still a tough, tough environment. Still, this is a big boost here today. I look forward to a more prosperous time after nine months of hell," Lewenza said.
After the morning celebration, the CAW and Cami began "exploratory talks" on a new collective agreement. GM and the CAW have a concession-laden agreement in place, but the Cami plant is covered by a separate deal that doesn't expire until September 2010.
The latest recall at the plant will bring employment there to about 2,200. About 150 remain on layoff and will likely stay off the job, Parcell said.
"We anticipate this latest recall of 350 will fill us up. We will not recall any more," he said.
The Equinox and Torrent -- the discontinued predecessor of the Terrain -- recently won honours from JD Power, the U.S. quality study, finishing second and third in a recent survey, said Parcell.
That doesn't surprise David Steenburg, who works in quality control at Cami. An Equinox was bought recently by a GM executive in charge of the quality review, he said.
"That says to me that people whose job it is to review quality are impressed with the engineering and production quality of these vehicles," he said.
For Parcell, the Terrain is a nice parting gift. He moves in November to a GM plant in Kentucky.
"This is a great way to end my time here. It is a real high note," said Parcell.
Norman De Bono is a Free Press business reporter.