McLaughlin Motor Car Company

In 1907, R.S. McLaughlin, son of Robert, created the McLaughlin Motor Car Co. after visiting the United States and discovering that automobiles were becoming a modern luxury.  It was after this tour that R.S. McLaughlin decided to use Buick engines and chassis with McLaughlin bodies to create the McLaughlin-Buick automobile.

The company produced 154 of these McLaughlin-Buicks in 1907.  In 1915, the Chevrolet Motor Car Co. of Canada was formed.  It was also the same year that the original McLaughlin Carriage Co. was sold to Jim Tudhope of Orillia, after building and producing 270,000 carriages.  In 1918, McLaughlin and Chevrolet merged with General Motors to create General Motors of Canada.  According to R.S. McLaughlin, “that was a grand thing for Oshawa on the day that the sale was made, and the city of Oshawa and our workmen will never regret it.”

This new company was formed at the beginning of the post war period for WWI and continued to progress steadily through the erection of new plants and office buildings.  Expansion continued in 1926 with additions made to the north plant and production increased. Like most companies, GM was affected during the Depression, and while they continued to produce automobiles it was at a reduced rate.

SC28016053013410Despite this reduced rate of production, GM of North America produced their 1,000,000th vehicle in 1938.  War was looming in Europe the previous year, and GM was asked if it would be willing to provide war materials if needed.  R.S. McLaughlin told the Department of National Defence, “There isn’t a thing this plant can do that it won’t do to discharge its obligations to this country.  We will do anything you want.”  In 1938 GM began building and testing different types of army vehicles such as trucks and tanks.  This testing would prove to be valuable to the war effort.

In 1939, GM employed approximately 4900 people in Oshawa. By 1943, 7600 were employed, with 6750 of these employees engaged in producing military products and the remaining in the aircraft division. The year before (1942) saw the production of civilian vehicles brought to a halt to devote all production to the war effort.

At the end of the war, GM resumed production of civilian cars. In 1950, construction of the South Plant began; this was to become the largest automotive assembly plant in Canada.

In 1965, the Automotive Trade Agreement, or the Autopact, was signed between the United States and Canada. This free-trade agreement was supposed to stimulate Canadian industry and create jobs, while making it easier to sell American cars in Canada.

In the early 1980’s, General Motors of Canada moved their national headquarters to Oshawa, and a new building was erected on the east side of Wentworth St. (now called Col. Sam Dr.) overlooking the Second Marsh.  New development continued throughout the 80’s with the creation of the Autoplex.  GM remodeled both the north and south Oshawa plants, increasing its use of robotics while keeping the employment stable.  This also eliminated the standard assembly line and improved it; jobs were to be done at work stations, with the Automated Guided Vehicles moving along tracks with modular components to work stations of around 8-15 people.  Sixty percent of the components made in Oshawa were used on vehicles, while the rest were shipped to the United States.  A new stamping plant was also put into place in 1988 where it would stamp and form sheet metal parts for the car plants.

General Motors was hit hard by the economic downturn between 2008  and 2010.  The truck plant in Oshawa was closed in May 2009 and in June the company declared bankruptcy.  However, after massive restricting and bail-out loans from both the federal and provincial governments, the company began to rebound in 2010 and posted profits for the first time in years.  This positive turn has resulted in workers being recalled to Oshawa’s car plant.


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