PARMA, Ohio — As the pickup truck and large SUV market continues to see record demand, those at General Motors Parma Metal Center told News 5 they're keeping busy helping build the bones for popular models, including the GMC Canyon and Chevrolet Colorado.
During a quarterly earnings call on Jan. 31, General Motors announced record profits for the end of last year. Since then, its stock has climbed more than 13%.
"We were a key contributor to those record earning profits,” Gm Parma Metal Center Plant Director Jim Gaeschke explained to News 5. "Our customers who sit in the front seats of the GMC Canyon and Chevrolet Colorado, this part right here is where that seat attaches to."
In 2021, General Motors announced a $46.8 million investment in its Parma Metal Center. News 5 was granted access inside the plant to view the latest upgrades, which focus on the plant's press and metal assembly area, as well as aluminum operations.
"We have brand new technology here," Gaeschke added. "Getting new [equipment] to support those brand new trucks is a game changer for us here in Parma."
RELATED: General Motors to invest $46.8 million for upgrades at Parma Metal Center
According to its company website, Parma Metal Center processes more than 550 tons of steel per day and has the capability to producing more than 100 million parts per year.
In addition to the Colorado and the Canyon, Gaeschke said the plant produces parts for full size SUVs, midsize SUVs, crossovers and midsize truck stamping and assembly.
"There's a huge shift from the smaller vehicles and cars to that segment," he added.
Finished parts at the Parma plant are then sent to GM's plant in Wentzville, Missouri for assembly.
From assembly robots to driverless shuttles, it doesn’t take long to notice the amount of automation inside the plant. However, Gaeschke told News 5 the plant is still on track to maintain its thousand employees in Parma going forward.
That amounts to more than $93 million in taxable wages, which Parma Mayor Tim DeGeeter said is crucial for the city’s second largest employer.
"For Parma, it’s a grand slam," Mayor DeGeeter explained. "That plant is a lifeline to what we can do here at city hall, providing services and being a safe community here in Parma."
The GM Parma Metal Center is celebrating 75 years of operation, after opening in 1948.
Over the last ten years, more than $300 million has been invested in the Parma plant. However leaders told News 5 this latest round of upgrades will help advance Parma Metal Center further into the future.
As UAW Local 1005 Shop Chairman Michael Patterson points out, part of the upgrades still being added will help make machines compatible with aluminum, which is about a third the weight of steel.
"We’ll be positioned to do lightweight parts in order to increase fuel mileage and battery mileage as the business is changing," Patterson said. "A gallon of gas is not getting any cheaper. The more we can make our products get better gas mileage, the better. Aluminum is going to play a big role in the EV market, as well as the large and midsize crossover market and the large sized truck market."
Those upgrades are expected to be completed by the spring of 2024.
"It gives us that extra flexibility and diversity in our portfolio to continue to move forward and bring in new work here at Parma," Gaeschke said.
Global sales of pickup trucks are expected to increase more than 30% over the next seven years, according to a 2022 report by consulting firm Skyquest.
Clay LePard is a special projects reporter at News 5 Cleveland. Follow him on Twitter @ClayLePard or on Facebook Clay LePard News 5.
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