General Motors Co. on Thursday said it will invest $560 million Canadian dollars — about $450 million in U.S. currency — in its CAMI Assembly plant in Ingersoll, Ontario, for production of the next generation Chevrolet Equinox. GM on Thursday unveiled a refreshed Equinox at the Chicago Auto Show that will go on sale in the fall.
The Detroit automaker said it will invest $190 million directly at CAMI Assembly in manufacturing equipment and tools and $370 million in vendor tooling with suppliers in Canada.
"GM is making investments at the award-winning CAMI Assembly plant to enable it to manufacture the next generation Chevrolet Equinox," Steve Carlisle, president and managing director of General Motors of Canada, said in a statement. "These investments, which follow planning and study with our partners, are a further vote of confidence in our employees, our business and our future in Ontario and Canada."
GM in 2013 announced $250 million for a new body shop and flexible manufacturing equipment and tooling, converting the manufacturing facility to support future vehicle production.
"Canadian workers have the skill and dedication needed to build the highest-quality vehicles in the world," Jerry Dias, Unifor national president, said in a statement. "Today's announcement is a reflection of that. General Motors understands the excellent opportunities available to automakers in Canada and is dedicated to keeping a strong presence in this country."
Mike Van Boekel, the Unifor Local 88 unit chair at the Ingersoll, Ontario plant, credited the workers at the plant, who have been working six-day weeks to keep up with demand for the Equinox and GMC Terrain, which is also built there. GM's release did not discuss any investment for production of a next generation Terrain.
"We are pleased to see General Motors securing its future in Southern Ontario," James Moore, Canada's Industry Minister, said in a statement. "Our government is committed to strengthening our manufacturing sector and creating jobs for Canadian families. This investment proves that our highly-skilled workforce, low taxes and open markets make Canada one of the best places in the world to build cars."
The Equinox, the third-best selling Chevy, is getting its first major refresh since the 2010 model year. GM says the 2016 Equinox, which goes on sale this fall, has a freshened front with chrome trim on upper models, new wheel designs, a larger color touchscreen radio and standard backup camera for entry-level trims.
Changes to the Equinox include a trim lineup that adds an entry L model and eliminates the 1LT and 2LT trim lines, projector-beam headlamps and dual-element tail lamps. Some trims get new wheels; side blind-zone alert and rear cross-traffic alert are available on LT and LTZ trims. The small SUV has a revised center stack. Premium fabrics were added to the L and LS models.
Chevy sold 242,242 Equinox crossovers in 2014, up 1.7 percent from 2013. January sales rose to a January record 19,555, up 34.4 percent from January 2014.
General Motors North America President Alan Batey said the automaker plans to also reveal a new GMC Terrain — based on the same platform as the new Equinox — but he said the automaker will show it off later this year. Batey said the investment, which will go toward tooling and equipment, doesn't mean GM plans to increase production of the vehicle.
He said GM's sales of about 240,000 Equinox SUVs in the United States was at full capacity. "We can't build any more," Batey. "We literally are squeezing every last one we can out because it is so popular."
Five years into the Equinox lifecycle it is still selling out, Batey said.
"It's that balance you want to keep," Batey said, saying they don't want to boost production and hurt demand. "We haven't needed to push them heavily with incentives."
Staff writers David Shepardson and Melissa Burden contributed.