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GM Closure Risks Major Blowback with Canadian Consumers

[Ottawa – January 16, 2019] The closing of the General Motors assembly plant in Oshawa has aroused widespread attention, with more than half of Canadians following this development either closely (15 per cent) or somewhat closely (42 per cent).

The clear consensus in Canada is that if General Motors wants to sell cars to Canadians, they should make them here. Agreement with this notion outstrips disagreement by a three-to-one margin (74 per cent versus 25 per cent). This general agreement holds throughout most demographics and regions in Canada.

The move is also having a very corrosive impact on the GM brand in Canada. Just over half of Canadians say their opinion of the company has worsened as a result of the closure.

In an even more troubling finding for General Motors, Canadians appear ready to walk the talk. Forty-five per cent of Canadians say they would support an outright boycott and another 26 per cent say they would consider it. Even discounting a large portion of this as exaggeration, there is no doubt that this move would cost the company a huge number of sales in Canada – arguably more than offsetting any economies from sending the jobs to Mexico.

Finally, Canadians are underwhelmed by the performance of governments to date on this file. Neither the federal nor Ontario governments get good marks, but the marks are poorest for Doug Ford’s PC Government in Ontario.

Bottom line:

Whatever the economic strategy that underpinned GM’s decision-making here, it appears to have backfired and risks a far more costly impact on both sales and brand reputation in Canada. Canadians expect more from their governments in responding to what has been a pretty universally panned decision by GM.


This survey was conducted using High Definition Interactive Voice Response (HD-IVR™) technology, which allows respondents to enter their preferences by punching the keypad on their phone, rather than telling them to an operator. In an effort to reduce the coverage bias of landline only RDD, we created a dual landline/cell phone RDD sampling frame for this research. As a result, we are able to reach those with a landline and cellphone, as well as cellphone-only households and landline only households.

The field dates for this survey are January 10-15, 2019. In total, a random sample of 1,939 residents of Canadians aged 18 and over responded to the survey, including a sub-sample of 288 Oshawa residents. The margin of error associated with the total sample is +/- 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Please note that the margin of error increases when the results are sub-divided (i.e., error margins for sub-groups such as region, sex, age, education). All the data have been statistically weighted by age, gender, and region to ensure the sample’s composition reflects that of the actual population of Canada according to Census data.

This survey was commissioned by Unifor.

Please click here for the full report.

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