Factories that don't have any products after next year and could be closed include assembly plants in Detroit and Oshawa, Ontario, and Lordstown, Ohio, as well as transmission plants in Warren, Michigan, and near Baltimore. Other plants making components are at risk of closure as well, along with two factories outside North America.
As recently as 2012, passenger cars made up more than 50 percent of all USA new vehicle sales. The company estimates that the cuts will save it $6 billion by the end of 2020. The United Auto Workers union, which represents employees at GM's USA factories, said in an emailed statement that it will challenge GM's decision through legal, contractual, and collective bargaining means.
According to reports, the five North American plants concerned employ almost 7,000, including 3,000 workers in the Ontario company. In October, nearly 65 percent of new vehicles sold in the US were trucks or SUVs.
GM sold almost 2.7 million vehicles in China through September, almost all of them built in China for the market.
"We are right-sizing capacity for the realities of the marketplace", Chief Executive Mary Barra said, adding that GM will double resources dedicated to electric and self-driving vehicles over the next two years.
He called the decision "absolutely devastating", and the broadcaster reported that thousands of workers at the Ontario plant stopped working Monday.
In North America, GM's sales have been hit hard by falling demand for saloon cars, and the firm is set to follow rival Ford's lead in culling most of its saloon models to put greater emphasis on SUVs and pick-up trucks. Members of both parties criticized the move announced Monday, citing the government aid the company has received in recent years, from the 2009 federal bailout of the auto industry to the $1.5 trillion tax cut that became law last December.
Among the plants that could shut is the Detroit/Hamtramck assembly plant - which makes low-demand vehicles such as the Chevrolet Impala and the Buick LaCrosse.
The reductions could amount to as much as 8 percent of GM's global workforce of 180,000 employees.
Four factories in the USA and one in Canada could be closed by the end of 2019 if the automaker and its unions don't come up with an agreement to allocate more work to those facilities, GM said in a statement earlier Monday.
It's also a reason why the company is unlikely to take Trump's advice, offered Monday afternoon, to replace production of the Cruze with something else in Ohio. "We recognize the need to stay in front of changing market conditions and customer preferences to position our company for long-term success". There is also a threat that costs of auto parts could rise if the Trump administration goes ahead with plans it is weighing to put tariffs on imported vehicles and parts.
As recently as 2012, passenger cars made up more than 50 percent of all USA new vehicle sales. Instead, the company said this year it would make the Blazer in Mexico.