The Canadian facility will be a casualty of the auto giant's pivot into zero-emissions and autonomous vehicles.

The move will affect thousands of jobs at General Motors’ Canadian headquarters, including around 2,500 union staff and 300 salaried employees.

The company will make an announcement to workers at 10 am on 26 November local time with more details on the closure.

General Motors undertaking a strategic change of direction

The Oshawa plant being closed is one part of a massive restructuring of General Motors’ global operations.

Last year, General Motors announced plans for an ambitious change of direction towards self-driving vehicles and is betting big that autonomous taxis will become commonplace in dense urban areas.

At the time, General Motors President Dan Ammann told investors each of the new breed of cars could reap “several hundred thousands of dollars” for the automaker, a figure which easily outstrips the average US$30,000 that GM makes today from each of its traditional cars.

“If we continue on our current rate of change we will be ready to deploy this technology, in large scale, in the most complex environments, in 2019,” Ammann said.

Move into the burgeoning electric car market

In December 2017, the company also said it would introduce two new electric cars within 18 months.

The company’s strategy also included a proposed 20 new electric car models hitting the market by 2023, though it would not be drawn on when the first electric car would appear. At that stage, the company was forecasting that no jobs would be lost in the transition.

General Motors had also committed to a National Zero Emissions Vehicle Program which could see a total of 7 million of its electric cars on the market by 2030. It is not known where GM will build these vehicles.

Social impact of General Motors’ decision to close its Oshawa plant

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford were informed of the decision before the news broke. They were both said to be exploring options to assist the workers who will lose their jobs.

Jennifer French, who represents Oshawa in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, said: “Words cannot fully describe the anxiety that my community is feeling at this moment.”

John Henry, mayor of Oshawa, described the company’s decision to close the plant as one which would have effects in the city of 170,000 people and beyond.

“It’s going to affect the province, it’s going to affect the region … The auto industry’s been a big part of the province of Ontario for over 100 years,” he said.

An unnamed Canadian government official said the decision was “very devastating”.

The official added that General Motors’ decision was “purely company led” and not related to ongoing trade tensions between the US and Canada.

The facility has produced vehicles since 1907 and at one stage was one of the largest car-making facilities in the world.