General Motors says it will invest CA $257.7 million ($250 million) at its CAMI assembly plant in Ingersoll, ON, Canada, paving the way for the cross/utility vehicle maker to become flexible enough to build multiple models off different platforms.

“Conversion of the CAMI assembly plant to a flexible manufacturing facility will provide (it) with the ability to produce multiple global architectures and body styles,” Kevin Williams, president and managing director-GM Canada says in a statement.

“Continually improving the flexibility of our manufacturing operations helps us respond quickly to customer needs and market demand.”

Flexible production, or the ability to shift output between products on a single assembly line, has other distinct advantages over the one-vehicle-per-plant model by allowing OEMs to better utilize capacity and avoid overproduction or unnecessary downtime.

Japanese auto makers introduced flexibility to North America in the 1980s, and it proved a key competitive advantage by allowing the newcomers to compete in multiple segments with fewer plants than the Detroit Three.

The U.S.-based auto makers struggled to keep pace with the Japanese until their massive restructurings out of 2009’s Great Recession gave them the smaller manufacturing footprint necessary to make their remaining operations truly flexible.

In addition to responding to consumer demand more quickly, flexible manufacturing reduces the risk associated with uncertain energy consumption and emerging alternative-powertrain technologies.

CAMI currently builds the popular Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain 5-passenger CUVs. A WardsAuto forecast shows the facility adding redesigned models of the Equinox and Terrain for the ’16 model year on new platforms, as well as hybrid versions of the CUVs.

CAMI has struggled to meet demand for the Equinox and Terrain since the economy rebounded despite a 3-shift operation. As a result, GM last year unlocked its shuttered Spring Hill, TN, assembly plant to supplement production.

According to WardsAuto data, CAMI built 305,415 units last year, as U.S. sales of the Equinox rose 13.1% to 218,621 units and Terrain deliveries grew 17.6% to 97,786 against an industry up 13.4%.

Construction, including the installation of new body shop equipment and tooling, will begin in the coming weeks, GM says.

CAMI employs 2,700 people at the site 90 miles (150 km) south of Toronto.

jamend@wardsauto.com