Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Marick Masters on GM's potential next moves
U.S. sales of the Chevy Cruze, listed for about $18,000, plummeted by a third from 2014 to 2017, the year that GM began to cut shifts in Lordstown. The so-called “small car recession” has led Ford to cut sedans and jobs in North America. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles shed small and midsize cars two years ago. A GM spokeswoman said the company was forced to “end the production of several vehicles because consumer preference has changed.” Then there is pressure for the auto industry to move toward producing electric vehicles and autonomous cars — a transition that may be difficult in a large, aging plant. Across the country, GM’s assembly plants are operating at about 70 percent capacity, and the plant closure could be a move to consolidate facilities, said Marick Masters, a labor relations professor at Wayne State University. GM is likely trying to free up capital to invest in technology, he said, which could make for an uphill battle for the UAW in negotiations. “You can always retool something, but if you have things that are more suitable and need to make a meaningful investment in R&D or product development, that’s where you’re going to have to free up your capital,” Masters said. While the suppliers crowded near the Ohio plant are fearful of losing their central customer, larger component makers have been pressing the big car companies to embrace these changes for years, Masters said. “It’s a question of: Do you want to invest in the future or the past?” he said.