After five decades of manufacturing more than 16 million vehicles, the Lordstown Complex, a General Motors automobile factory in Lordstown, Ohio, comprising of three facilities: vehicle assembly, metal center, and paint shop, is shutting down.
The last Chevrolet Cruze rolled through the production line Wednesday, hundreds of workers put down their tools and walked out of the plant in disgust as their futures were uncertain.
Thanks, Steve! I hope I can glean some attention to the GM Lordstown plant closing today. My sis shot this video of the last car. She was 4 years from retiring. So sad for the entire area. pic.twitter.com/GgPFvhyK0T— 🗽🖤Emy Cahalin🖤🗽⏰👊 (@CahalinEmy) March 6, 2019
A dozen or less stayed for a vigil marking the final Cruse reaching the end of the production line in the late afternoon. Some workers went to the union hall and discussed their disappointment in GM management.
The General Motors plant in Lordstown, Ohio will assemble its last Chevy Cruze today as it prepares to close down for good — leaving employees frustrated and concerned for their community. https://t.co/5ytkYgekrX@KevTibs reports tonight on @NBCNightlyNews. pic.twitter.com/XQaDjSQTCa— NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt (@NBCNightlyNews) March 6, 2019
The move to idle the Lordstown plant has resulted in the loss of 1,500 jobs. Since 2017, GM cut several production shifts, eliminating 3,000 jobs amid declining demand for compact vehicles in the US. Workers were furious that GM is continuing to produce the Cruze in Mexico for Central and South American markets.
GM is currently making the transition from small car production to trucks and SUVs. GM CEO Mary Barra is changing the automaker's North American footprint by ending production at five plants and cutting more than 14,000 jobs.
Lordstown is the first plant to close under the new reorganization plan. The company will then close four other factories and shift its attention to SUVs and trucks, as well as investing in electric and autonomous vehicles. Cruze production will be discontinued in North America.
The plant is expected to officially close on Friday. GM doesn't have any plans to reconfigure the plant for another vehicle.
GM's 2017 capacity utilization rate in North America was the worst in the entire auto industry, at 73%. Ford's factories were producing at 82%, Fiat Chrysler's was at 90%, Honda at 91%, and Toyota at 93%, according to LMC Automotive.
For the first time in over 100 years, GM won't be assembling automobiles in Ohio.
"We know how devastating that is for the workers, for their families, for local businesses, for the entire community. We also know it doesn't have to be this way," Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.
As for the actual plant in Lordstown, what happens next is unclear. With the US economy heading into a lower trajectory of growth, if not a possible recession in the coming quarters, expect more manufacturers to shutter their doors with more job losses.