Nov. 26 (UPI) -- General Motors announced plans Monday to close five plants in the United States and Canada in 2019, idling thousands of blue- and white-collar workers.
"We are taking this action now while the company and the economy are strong to keep ahead of changing market conditions," CEO Mary T. Barra said.
The assembly plants include the GM factory in Lordstown, Ohio, which makes the Chevrolet Cruze, the Detroit-Hamtramck plant in Michigan, where the Chevy Volt, the Cadillac CT6 and the Buick LaCrosse are produced, and the plant in Oshawa, Ontario, near Toronto, which makes the Chevy Impala and the Cadillac XTS. Two transmission plants, in Warren, Mich., and in Baltimore, also will close. The company said its moves will save $6 billion by 2020.
The company previously announced the closure of an assembly plant in Gunsan, South Korea.
About 5,600 jobs will be at least temporarily eliminated at the three assembly plants, and other facilities, including motor plants and outside suppliers, will be affected. Workers at the Oshawa plant walked off the job Monday after they were given the information about their plant's closure.
Vehicle sales in North America peaked in 2016, and companies say they face competitive challenges as well as tariffs imposed on imported steel and aluminum in President Donald Trump's trade war.
Trump criticized the closures while speaking to reporters Monday afternoon and said he spoke to Barra.
"This country has done a lot for General Motors. They better get to Ohio and soon," he said. "So we have a lot of pressure on them."
He told The Wall Street Journal that he told Barra the company should stop making vehicles in China and instead open a new plant in Ohio.
"They better damn well open a new plant there very quickly," Trump said. "I love Ohio. I told them, 'you're playing around with the wrong person.'"
Like other U.S. vehicle manufacturers, GM is shifting away from production of sedans and toward the more popular SUVs and light-duty trucks, although it did not specify that any models will be eliminated from its lineup. The company also intends to focus more on electric cars.
"GM now intends to prioritize future vehicle investments in its next-generation battery-electric architectures," a company statement on Monday said. "As the current vehicle portfolio is optimized, it is expected that more than 75 percent of GM's global sales volume will come from five vehicle architectures by early next decade."
Some of the closing plants could reopen in the future depending on the outcome of next year's labor negotiations with the United Auto Workers union. GM said it is investigating the possibility of retooling the assembly plants to make other vehicles.
In October, GM offered buyouts to thousands of blue- and white-collar workers in an attempt to reduce payroll and other costs. It hoped to eliminate at least 7,000 white-collar positions, and said it would move ahead with involuntary personnel cuts if the buyout program fell short.
The Ford Motor Co. also seeks to reduce its white collar payroll but has not closed any of its North American plants.