GM’s Lordstown complex would win in a fair battle

General Motors’ plant in Lordstown is in a fight for its survival, given the company’s plans to end production in March of the once top-selling Chevrolet Cruze.

GM has announced the massive assembly complex will be categorized as “unallocated,” which means there’s no new product in the pipeline to replace the Cruze.

However, the company has stopped short of announcing a closing date for the plant, thus leaving the door open to the possibility that decision-makers in Detroit could change “unallocated” to “allocated.”

Let us be clear as to what’s going on: The Lordstown assembly complex is on the brink through no fault – absolutely no fault – of the workers or the quality of the product.

Indeed, an independent evaluation by J.D. Power, an American-based global marketing information services company, rated the Cruze one of the safest vehicles on the road. It also said the compact car was one of the best in terms of performance, execution and layout.

For its part, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the Cruze a 5-Star safety rating.

The rave reviews of the one-time best-selling car in General Motors’ fleet are a testament to the expertise, experience and dedication of the workforce.

Why, then, has the company decided to end production of the Cruze early next year? For the simple reason that demand for compact cars has dropped precipitously, while the appeal for crossovers, SUVs and trucks has skyrocketed.

For buyers who still want sedans, the Cruze remains a top choice. However, sales over the past couple of years have fallen short of GM’s targets, thus triggering the announcement two weeks ago that the cars would no longer be built in Lordstown.

It’s unclear if the Cruze Hatchback that’s made in a plant in Mexico will ultimately be shelved.

The bottom line, therefore, is that one of GM’s best assembly plants has fallen victim to changing consumer tastes – and not to a decline in the quality of the Cruze or the high standards of the workers.

By any objective measure, the complex in Lordstown has earned another product.

Electric vehicles

GM plans to roll out 20 new electric models in the next five years, which means Chairwoman and CEO Mary Barra and members of her executive team will be evaluating manufacturing facilities and the labor force.

Lordstown should be at the top of the list.

Barra met Wednesday in Washington with Ohio’s two senators, Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican Rob Portman, and the Valley ‘s two U.S. representatives, Democrat Tim Ryan and Republican Bill Johnson.

The members of Congress made it clear to Barra that while they understand GM’s need to discontinue building a car that isn’t selling, they strongly disagree with the decision to place the plant on “unallocated” status.

“We believe the workers and community around Lordstown have proven [themsleves] time and time again for almost five and a half decades,” Portman said. “Those workers have done their part.”

Brown pointed to the J.D. Power evaluation of the workforce as being the best in the country, and talked about the impact the loss of more than 4,000 jobs will have on the Mahoning Valley.

The senators told Barra they want GM to either assign electric vehicles to the Lordstown plant, or to move production of the Chevrolet Blazer from a facility in Mexico to the Valley.

“Give them a chance.”

That’s the bottom line of the appeal to Barra by the members of Congress.

Portman also called the president last week and reported that Republican Donald Trump is “committed to help us keep this plant here in Ohio.” The senator also talked to Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, who “is eager to help us.”

Congressman Ryan, who has spent an inordinate amount of time on this issue, said he told Barra the workers affected by the end of production are more than numbers on a page. People’s lives are at stake, he said.

After her meetings in Washington, Barra agreed to expedite negotiations with the UAW on the selection of plants to build the new models.

In an interview with The Vindicator, UAW Local 1112’s president and vice president, Dave Green and Tim O’Hara, said they are hopeful the Lordstown plant will get a new product.

Here’s the bottom line: If GM evaluates all its plants and workers fairly and objectively, Lordstown will come out on top and will get a new product.