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GM Cami Assembly plant in Ingersoll starts building next generation Chevrolet Equinox and plans for phase out of GMC Terrain as production of its new model moves to Mexico

By Megan Stacey, The London Free Press

(Postmedia Network file photo)

(Postmedia Network file photo)

As the new generation Chevrolet Equinox starts to roll off the line at the Cami Assembly plant in Ingersoll, General Motors is moving production of the GMC Terrain to Mexico.

The new Chevrolet Equinox, a slightly lighter and more compact sport utility vehicle, is being built alongside its older model, as well as the current generation GMC Terrain.

“The Equinox has launched this week, and we continue to build the current Terrain and the current Equinox. So all three are going down the line at once,” said Dan Borthwick, president of Unifor Local 88, which represents Cami workers.

Production of the new Equinox will ramp up over the next few months. Right now those vehicles are coming off slowly, just a few each hour, with a pause in the usual Saturday shifts.

The current GMC Terrain and Chevrolet Equinox models – both top prize winners for the SUV category in last year's J.D. Power quality study – will be phased out over the next year and a half.

“The Terrain is supposed to end, we’re hearing August this summer, and the Equinox is August 2018,” Borthwick said.

Though production of the new generation GMC Terrain - touted as a more upscale vehicle - is headed down south, production of the new Equinox has already allowed GM to beef up its workforce in Ingersoll.

“They’ve hired, I’ll say, 300 or 400 for the required production numbers going forward, and they continue to hire,” Borthwick said. “They’ll have another 40 by the end of the month.”

It works out well for Cami and its employees to see the Equinox production ramp up steadily as the older model Equinox and Terrain are phased out.

“We’re not full blast on the new Equinox right now, we’re building four or five an hour. That’s to get up to 36 by the end of February, and then 40 by the end of March,” Borthwick said.

Right now the Terrain and Equinox are rolling off the line quickly, about 60 every hour. But the new model is more labour intensive.

It’s still early days – production of the revamped Equinox began just began this week – but so far, it’s going well, Borthwick said. The gradual start is an opportunity to work out any final kinks.

“Saturdays are out of the schedule so they can have time for the engineers and maintenance tradespeople to look and make corrections to the builds,” he said.

Regular Saturday shifts are expected start again in April and continue for the rest of the year.

Despite the loss of the redesigned GMC Terrain, Borthwick's not panicking.

“We would always like to see the next generation Terrain stay in Canada and be part of the Cami Assembly, but unfortunately…because of the capacity of the plant and the numbers they’re projecting on the Equinox, it’s just not viable,” Borthwick said.

“But we always tell them...if they build the plant bigger, we’ll build more."

mstacey@postmedia.com