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DETROIT-General Motors Corp. has advised employees at its Ste. Thérèse, Quebec plantthat it will cease production of Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird models and close in September of 2002. “This is an extremely painful and difficult decision,” says Maureen Kempston Darkes, president and general manager of the company’s Canadian arm, General Motors of Canada Ltd.

“GM has worked very hard to identify a new product or other alternative to continue manufacturing at Ste. Thérèse,” Kempston Darkes adds. “We have explored a variety of alternatives, including vehicle assembly, niche vehicle assembly, powertrain components, remanufacturing and other automotive-related operations. However, despite several years of intensive work, we have been unable to identify any viable alternatives.”

She says the company recognizes the effort of the Quebec workforce.

“Over the years, they have demonstrated real pride of workmanship and a firm commitment to our customers, which we sincerely appreciate. We are committed to ensuring as smooth a transition as possible for our people,” she says.

Almost all of the 1,100 hourly employees currently on-roll and the 300 hourly employees currently on lay-off at Ste. Thérèse are now eligible for early retirement or will become eligible within the next few years, she says. The company is also committed to working closely with the CAW and with the Quebec and Federal Governments to put in place retraining and other transition assistance programs for those that want to continue their working careers.

“The Ste. Thérèse Plant has been a key contributor to the Quebec economy since it opened in 1965,” Kempston Darkes.says. “Over the past 15 years, GM has invested over $3 billion in the plant and generated over 20,000 person years of employment, with payrolls totaling over $1.2 billion.”

The company will still commit money to the more than 700 automotive suppliers in Quebec, she notes. The area has a strategic advantage with processing of aluminum and magnesium, she adds.

Sports cars have ceased to be a boom market, Kempston Darkes explains.

“Although the Camaro and Firebird models are outstanding performance cars, over the past 15 years, the sports car segment in North America has declined,” Kempston Darkes says. “At the same time, with the dramatic increase in import penetration, there is substantial excess capacity in our industry.

“The automotive industry has changed dramatically and we could notidentify an economically viable alternative for this facility,” she continues. “We will work with the CAW and the local, Quebec and Federal Governments to develop atransition plan for the facility.”

In connection with the closure of the St. Therese plant, GM will incur a one-time special charge of $300 million in the third quarter.

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