A grand experiment in collaborative auto manufacturing that began a quarter-century ago has ended. The final Toyota Corolla left the New United Motor Manufacturing plant (Nummi) in Fremont, CA., where General Motors and Toyota had engaged in a joint venture. G.M. ceased production at the plant last year, when the automaker was restructured. The closing eliminated about 4,700 jobs.
“I was told Nummi team members gave their all in making vehicles, up to that
last Corolla, and stayed on even after production stopped to maintain
equipment,” said Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota, in a statement. “I
am truly moved by the spirit of manufacturing that they have shown.”
partnership was meant to benefit G.M. and Toyota, and to a certain
extent it did. G.M. was able to study the assembly techniques that
helped Toyota gain a worldwide reputation for quality, and Toyota
gained insights regarding management and labor relations in American
Perhaps because of its deeply ingrained corporate culture and its
labor relation problems, G.M. was never able to take full advantage of
what it learned in Fremont, although the company undoubtedly came away
better equipped to compete with its former partner. Toyota, on the
other hand, would appear to have benefited greatly, as it later opened
productive manufacturing plants elsewhere in North America.
According to Reuters,
Toyota says it has committed $250 million to finance transitional
support for the plant’s workers. But that’s little consolation to
California residents, who have seen the state lose nearly 20 percent of
its manufacturing jobs over the last five years. California officials
had pressured Toyota to keep the plant open. While thousands of jobs
have been lost in Fremont, Nummi suppliers throughout the state have reportedly been forced to idle workers as well.
Many Nummi employees were members of the United Auto Workers, unlike
the labor force at Toyota’s other United States plants. The U.A.W.
presence was a result of the partnership with G.M., which has binding
agreements with the labor union.
Before the closing, the U.A.W. and Toyota reached an agreement in
regard to severance payments for plant workers. The minimum amount each
union worker received was in excess of $20,000. The union has also
taken steps to provide retraining for former Nummi employees.