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Jan 10, 2019

Ads attacking GM’s planned Oshawa plant closure could hurt brand: Expert

General Motors brand takes a hit in Canada


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General Motors Co.’s decision to wind down production at its Oshawa plant isn’t enough to severely damage the company’s brand across Canada but it certainly doesn’t help it, according to a marketing professor.

“This is a little weakening,” Alan Middleton, professor of marketing at Schulich School of Business, told BNN Bloomberg Thursday about GM’s decision to put its Oshawa plant on the chopping block. “Is it a slide off the edge? No, it isn’t. But, unless GM comes up with some really better news, that 13 [per cent] share of the Canadian market may keep sliding.”

Unifor – the union representing the GM Oshawa workers – came up empty-handed after meeting with the automaker earlier this week as it attempted to persuade GM to save the plant. In the meantime, the union has launched an ad campaign criticizing GM for the decision, highlighting Canada’s $11-billion bailout of the company during the financial crisis.


Middleton said he does not believe the ad will tip the scales for those considering their next vehicle, calling consumers “self-oriented” when making purchasing choices. However, he sees some risk to GM’s brand in Canada if the ad is able to generate social media buzz.

“The risk to General Motors is how this gets picked up through social media,” he said. “If you get all the car workers who don’t feel threatened and especially those who do sending this stuff out on social media, it will tip the balance.”

He added that the timing could be right for Ford to swoop in with an increased presence in Canada on the heels of a Thursday announcement that it will be scaling back production and cutting thousands of jobs in Europe.

“The question now, with what Ford’s just announced in Europe, is: Is there a follow-up announcement for Ford in Canada?” Middleton asked.

“So that will be playing into this, as well.”