At least one of three assembly plants that General Motors says it expects to close could find a reprieve based on the results of scheduled contract talks between the United Auto Workers and GM next year.
Detroit's biggest automaker announced plans in November to close five factories, including three assembly plants, and to cut 15 percent of its North American workforce. More than 14,000 employees are expected to lose their jobs, though GM has offered some factory workers the opportunity to transfer to other plants that may have openings.
The planned cuts have generated a political firestorm, President Donald Trump going so far as to threaten to take action against the automaker, possibly by eliminating federal tax incentives GM can offer buyers of its battery cars. It has also generated some positive press for GM's emerging rival Tesla, whose CEO Elon Musk has indicated he would consider buying the plant in Lordstown, Ohio.
The company is now giving a glimmer of hope that its plans to shutter all five plants may not be set in stone. In addition to Lordstown, the plants are Detroit-Hamtramck, Warren, Michigan, Baltimore and Ontario.
During several days of meetings on Capitol Hill earlier this month, CEO Mary Barra said she was willing to keep an "open mind" about the plant closings, though several senior insiders cautioned that it was unlikely GM would back down on the shutdowns.The automaker has also emphasized that it is required to negotiate plant closings with the UAW, which represents most of its U.S. hourly employees."The future of the (Lordstown plant and others) is a matter of negotiations," said GM spokesman Pat Morrissey.
Company officials previously told CNBC that GM isn't trying to create a bargaining ploy in a bid to win union concessions next year. They stress that the company simply has more capacity than it needs, especially for its passenger cars. If anything, several more assembly lines are at risk, including one in the Detroit suburb of Orion Township, where the Chevrolet Sonic subcompact and Bolt EV are assembled.