By on April 1, 2010

The literal answer is that it’s not the very last vehicle built at NUMMI. A red Corolla had that honor, but this is the very last Tacoma to be built by the UAW. And with that, the grand experiment between GM and Toyota is over. Could anyone have guessed way back in 1984 that the joint venture would eventually fall victim to a GM bankruptcy and Toyota overreach? Perhaps a few, but then who can say  what firm, or even what industry, will be busying NUMMI’s production floors 26 years from now? The times, they are a-changing.

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36 Comments on “What’s Wrong With This Picture: End Of The Line Edition...”


  • avatar
    Daanii2

    Here’s hoping that in 26 years the car industry will be based on a different business model. One that is more like the computer industry. That is what my start-up electric car company is trying to do.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Schwartz

      You mean by shipping all of the production to China?

    • 0 avatar
      Daanii2

      No, by making the car modular. With an electric car, you can split the car into seven independent modules. Each module can be built by a different company. The interfaces between the modules are designed so that modules from different companies can operate together.

      That’s what changed the computer industry. Many people don’t know that the computer industry in the 1960s looked a lot like the car industry today. Giant dinosaurs dominating the market by size alone, with new entrants kept out. Then modularity killed off the dinosaurs and new, nimble companies took over.

      By 26 years from now, I’m hoping modularity will have also transformed carmaking, making the car industry once again the “industry of industries.”

    • 0 avatar
      CarPerson

      Steve Jobs probably has an opinion on constructing computers or anything else using the modular concept. His business model appears to be an emphatic “NO!”

      By the way, vehicles today are already quite modular with the “manufacturer” doing only the final assembly. The degree of outside sub-assembly varies by the component, but don’t look for any magic there. Such outsourcing is primarily for lowering costs by avoiding union labor. You trade away alot for the few bits you get in return.

      What am I missing here: I am not seeing building major sub-assemblies in Viet Nam as a viable cornerstone for a successful business plan, much less for a successful electric car company.

    • 0 avatar
      Daanii2

      Modularity like GM’s Yellowstone project and similar efforts by the major carmakers differs a lot from what I have in mind. That, as you say, is modular assembly.

      What I have in mind is modular design, manufacture and use. Like Carliss Baldwin and Kim Clark talk about in their book Design Rules: The Power of Modularity.

      In the case of a car, the car would be dis-integrated into seven modules: car operating system, driver interface, motor controls, wheel/motors, body, chassis, and power unit.

      All modules would be “mix and match.” Modules from different makers could be used together as long as the interface specifications were met.

      We’re building a proof-of-concept car using an old Ford Ranger pickup. So far, it’s working out well. We’ll see what happens.

  • avatar
    imag

    NUMMI, to me, is about a company

    from a country that attacked us,

    which we then nuked,

    and then helped industrialize,

    which then came back and taught us lessons which we didn’t even listen to,

    which eventually transformed global manufacturing and business processes,

    which had a philosophy of continuous product and world improvement,

    and which was one of the rare factories in its time where the people were valued for their ingenuity…

    It’s sad to see it go…

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      Actually, it was an American that taught the Japanese the lessons, after he was roundly ignored and/or ridiculed by inbred management at home:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._Edwards_Deming

    • 0 avatar
      imag

      That was the “and then helped industrialize” part. We taught them about quality.

      We did not, however, invent kanban, lean production, or any number of the other things Ohno and others managed to derive from Deming’s work.

  • avatar
    BobJava

    Setting aside personal feelings about GM, unions, etc, this is another devastating hit to the California economy. If I’m not mistaken, it’s the last auto plant in the state by a large manufacturer. The plant itself employed thousands, but still thousands more in the state are employed by parts suppliers.

    But … who do you have to blame but GM, the unions, and California government? No one wants to run a plant here. These types of American jobs aren’t coming back.

    • 0 avatar
      imag

      Please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe this represents the only US example I know of where Toyota has ever permanently closed a factory. As far as I know, their policy of always keeping employees who do their jobs well has remained consistent in all the time they have been in the US.

      Of course, this wasn’t solely their plant, which gives them an out. But I don’t think Toyota took this lightly.

      On the other side of the coin, I can’t even count how many employees our good ol’ American car companies have laid off over the years, can you?

    • 0 avatar
      paul_y

      @imag: GM owns NUMMI and signs the paychecks, but Toyota manages it, so if you want to split hairs, Toyota is not closing a plant.

      …but Toyota is closing a plant, and GM is losing it’s best manufacturing facility all in one fell swoop.

      It’s really a shame that GM (and the UAW) completely failed to learn anything from NUMMI.

    • 0 avatar
      imag

      I now see that Toyota has had to have layoffs in the last two years. The numbers, 1K, 370, still don’t look anywhere near what GM alone has outsourced.

    • 0 avatar
      imag

      Totally agree Paul. It irks me to see people act like Toyota, as the one left holding the bag, is the one responsible. It irks me even more because Toyota have never walked away from their employees in any scale approaching the big 3.

      Toyota came in, treated our workers with respect, and taught our car companies how to build better vehicles, which they had no obligation to do, and which no American company would have ever done. To my mind, recall or no recall, bland cars or not, they still deserve our respect.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    So where are they going to build the Tacoma now?

    I’m surprised California didn’t fight harder to keep the plant. California is Toyota’s strongest market. They make enough profits in California that they can afford to lose a bit by making a few token cars there.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Tijuana and, I think, San Antonio. They already have a plants that are newer, more flexible and need the capacity. The same applies to the Corolla: Cambridge already makes it, and the utilization makes more sense.

      Why run three or four plants at part-capacity when you can run two or three at full bore?

  • avatar
    Bigsby

    Checked Wiki to see that GM closed the Fremont plant in 1982. Two years later it was reopened as a joint facility that belonged to neither Toyota nor GM despite what everyone “knows”. What kinda car company is NUMMI? A temporary one set up to allow GM to learn the Toyota Way and to allow Toyota to learn the American ways. This they have done. As for the workers who lost out, the writing was on the wall way back in 1984. Everyone had to have known, if they weren’t told when they signed on, that it was not a permanent thing.
    It lasted 26 years. Not bad for a temp job.
    I sympathise with the workers who lost out but they can hardly cry injustice. They always knew Toyota is not the wonderful company that it makes itself out to be. These car companies are corporate entities i.e. machines. They may be dressed up with all kinds of smiley faces but they don’t care any more for their workers than your microwave cares how your day went.

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      bigsby + 1

    • 0 avatar
      Accazdatch

      Bigsby:

      I don’t think you are seeing the big picture here, (as Toyota would say.) Not at all.

      In essence.. the plant closed because GM didn’t have a vehicle to be jointly built there. GM could have moved production of the Dawewoo Lacetti, that is sold as the Buick Excelle in China to there.

      Shit, its a logistical nightmare to move machinery around, (or fantastically easy for HONDA) and source new parts.. but if Honda can move one vehicle from one plant to another, and slow another down that’s not selling, why CANT GM.

      It sounds so easy.. Ford turned around their largest SUV factory to build UK’s Focus’ for the U.S, in the U.S.

      It doesn’t make any logical sense..why another compact cant be built there.. along side Corolla for GM.

      Its GM’s short sightedness.. that brought this on.

      Now..
      Wikipedia isn’t always right.. but they get it correct.. 65% of time time.

      What Nummi is..
      Is a joint venture between Generic Motors and Toyota, with Toyota running the plant.

      Its like saying.. the Titanic only sank because the watertight decks were too low.

      Now back in 84, no one NO ONE would imagine Toyota being this big. I’m sorry, no one has that kind of hindsight. No one can predict that.. even though it is in the concept of a growing business.

      Im sure everyone there thought that plant.. would be there forever. No one thinks its going to fail.. definitely not a TOYOTA plant.

      Now
      If you remember.. the Delaware Plant that made the Sky and Solstice. That was a niche car, virtually shared between two competing brands. It failed because it wasn’t diversified. They could have built a compact hatch or sedan on that frame.. and made it the GMT900 of that size, they could have. The papers in the area told of how the people knew a shift was going away… and were eventually down to 1 shift. Ya have to know.. something is going wrong.

      Chrysler closed the Delaware plant that produced the Durango and that Chrysler hybrid piece of shit. It was closed because sales sucked.. and they kept reducing the shifts.

      They closed the Trailblazer plant GMT360 on Moraine Ohio THE DAY BEFORE XMAS last year, because sales was going in to the shitter, (only to replace it with a comparable vehicle), nice stab in the back…

      They also closed the Jonesville Wisconson plant that produced the Tahoe / Suburban. They were all over the news poed because their town went to shit. I feel bad for them. However, when you make an obese POS like the Burban.. and sell it to every sub-prime bastard who wants one.. at a time when gas prices goes through the roof.. it doesn’t make the vehicle look good.. even in rose colored glasses.

      Now.
      The Freemont plant.. is not comparable to those mentioned earlier, based on the concept that the vehicles were selling and production was fine. It was GM’s total lack of foresight, for a compact, that led to its ultimate demise.

      Honestly..
      How hard would it be to rebadge a bunch of Lacetti’s and sell them as Buicks.. or Caddys.

  • avatar
    AJ

    California is just one of those states that it’s hard to run a business in. Gee, I wonder why that is?

    • 0 avatar
      BDB

      California is just one of those states that it’s hard to run a business in.

      Not really. Apple, Google, Intel, AMD, Electronic Arts, and Vizio are all based in California, just to name a few. They all do quite well.

    • 0 avatar

      Only one of the companies you listed, Vizio, was started within the last 10 years.

      How about giving us examples of successful companies started in California in the past 5 years?

      California’s defense industries have virtually abandoned the state, moving factories to the South. 150,000 Californians pay 50% of the state’s income tax and wealthy business owners are starting to move out of the state. Their businesses will follow.

      Who the heck wants to operate in a state with CARB, an unaccountable and unelected panel of bureaucrats that with the stroke of a pen can make your business unprofitable?

      Taxes have soared even though the state is incapable of providing any real services, yet the entitled, overpaid, arrogant and overpensioned public employees keep slurping from the public’s trough.

    • 0 avatar
      BDB

      Why ten years? You’re saying California was a right-wing paradise until 2000? Give me a break, that’s an arbitrary timeline. Google was started very recently as far as corporations go, in 1998, just outside your timeline and Apple started their revival around the same time. Neither of them would ever consider moving to Mississippi or Alabama. They might outsource their low-skill labor there, just like they would to Mexico, but there are reasons they would never put their headquarters or high-skilled jobs there.

      Silicon Valley exists because California made a decision in the middle of the 20th Century to spend a lot of taxes on higher education. It’s an investment that has more than paid off. Their recent budget troubles are from the Prop. 13 idiocy and their ridiculous requirement that a budget has to get a 2/3 majority in the legislature. If we had that requirement here in Virginia we would never be able to balance a budget, either. Together, it makes the state ungovernable. They need a new constitution and trash Prop. 13 (and really, just get rid of pleblicites in general, they’re a bad idea).

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      California’s problems have nothing to do with Proposition 13 or the 2/3 majority required to support a tax increase.

      Revenues exceeded pre-13 levels by the late 1980s. The most Proposition 13 did was distort who pays property taxes.

      California has either the 6th highest or 16th highest overall state tax burden (depending on the source) in the nation. It has a high, steeply progressive personal income tax, a high sales tax and high business taxes.

      If California ranked among the bottom ten states for overall tax burden, then one could plausibly claim that its problems stem from its citizens’ reluctance to tax themselves. But that isn’t what has happened. The simple fact is that the state spends too much, and has about tapped out available sources of revenue.

      When former California Assembly Speaker and liberal Democrat Willie Brown says so (as he did on his blog recently), then I’d say the debate on that one is over.

    • 0 avatar
      charly

      How many companies do you know that are less than 5 year old and are out of state? Tesla is even older than 5 year. I don’t know how old TTAC is but i would be a surprise if that is the only company that is less than 5 year old and know by both of us

    • 0 avatar
      charly

      Youtube is from Cali and 5 years old.

    • 0 avatar
      imag

      Ronnie,

      Taxes in California have not “soared” in recent years. They are far lower now than they were under Reagan, whom low-tax advocates seem to adore.

      And who are you people who think we’re just throwing money away on spending? Do you think Schwarzenegger just didn’t try hard enough? Thousands of people have been through that budget with a fine-toothed comb, looking for cuts. It’s not easy, like people in the public seem to think. You have to start cutting real services for real people in a very big way, and those types of cuts have proven to be very short-sighted in the long term.

      Our absurd prison sentencing does need to be cut, but it won’t be until all the “tough on crime” advocates get real and realize that we don’t need to put a higher percentage of our population in prison than any country in the world. Unfortunately, those tough on crime people always seem to be the same ones saying we need to cut.

      People who feed you that whole, “we just need to root out all the inefficiencies” are selling you something. The problem is that we keep voting for things and won’t pay for them.

      Your cries for cuts would be far more realistic if you could call out what you, specifically, would cut. Otherwise, you sound just like that idiot windbag Whitman, who has no idea what the budget actually looks like.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      imag,

      One place to start – education.

      California spends MORE per pupil than Texas, yet it lags behind that state in student achievement. And both states educate large numbers of non-native students, so California can’t use that one as an excuse. Are Californians getting their money’s worth here?

      The state’s welfare benefits are also generous compared to other states. That may make people feel better, but if the state can’t afford that level of benefits, too bad.

      And the fact still stands that taxes are higher in California than in most other states. So there seems to be a spending problem in the Golden State.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Imag, look at the way toyota treats their own in japan, though. They require them to work long hours, put in free overtime and some have died from being overworked.
    They reason they don’t do that over here is simlpy because they can’t.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      That’s kind of disingenuous, though. The Japanese work/life balance is different from North American norms: far more people in Japan work that way. It’s not a Toyota-exclusive practice.

      The same applies to, say, Europe versus North America. The French get, if I recall, nine weeks of vacation, maternal/parental care and worker’s rights systems that makes North America look like, well, Japan. None of this is Renault or PSA’s doing.

    • 0 avatar
      imag

      Psarhjinian hit that. And it’s easy to judge others without understanding.

      Look how many Americans die from job-related stress, how many Americans don’t even take two weeks of vacation a year, and how many work huge amounts of unpaid overtime (in white collar positions). I know I have done the latter two. And the US is (was) the richest country on Earth.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      @Moparman: What isn’t routinely discussed are the weak Japanese unions, who essentially rubber stamp management decisions. Additionally, home market Japanese manufacturers use a large amount of temporary workers, who can be dismissed at a moment’s notice. We do a lot of this here in the States, but for lower value products than automobiles, though.

      Also, there have been some high profile law suits against Toyota in Kentucky, the most prominent one I’m aware of is the woman who contracted repetitive stress injury of her shoulder and was basically forced out by plant management. I believe the lawsuit is STILL ongoing. There are others, primarily concerning union organization, but I think whether or not those count depends on your point of view of unions.

      @Psar: The French vacation, health care and m/paternity arrangements are very similar to what my cousins in Germany have. Germany maintains it’s positions as one of the world’s largest exporters. I don’t wish to get political here, but they definitely get more bang for their admittedly higher tax receipts. I too, am a person who rarely uses their vacation (although I took a day off today without having the flu or a child ill), and when I compare my life to my European cousins, I wonder…

  • avatar
    ajla

    Nice to see that the NUMMI plant got a better sendoff than the entire Pontiac brand.

  • avatar
    mikedt

    Good “This American Life” broadcast on this
    http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/403/nummi
    The execs didn’t know their asses from a hole in the ground.

    • 0 avatar
      Accazdatch

      That story mentions Paul an Ed, as well as Paul Eisenstein from the http://www.thedetroitbureau.com/

      NICE JOB GUYS!!
      EXCELLENT PIECE!
      THIS… THAT.. is why I come to TTAC.

      Ive listened to that 3 times so far and sometimes.. as negative as I am about GM.. it never fails to amaze me how BAD Freemont was.. and in the end.. how GOD DAMN SLOW and GOD DAMN worthless GM is, as a company, as a car maker, as a group of people.. hell FUCKIN bent to be the slowest moving bastards… this size of the Mississippi.

      Its a great piece.
      And as boring as the Corolla.. is..
      It stands for something.

      Like that plant..

      Only one in the U.S.

      Im just poed.. that GM couldnt move the production for the Lacetti or some compact to there.. alongside the Corolla, thats GOT to be a little short sighted.

      All of that work, and retooling.. and negative publicity..

      Bad for them both.

  • avatar
    pgcooldad

    First plant Toyota closes in 73 years. No to US AutoUnions! Yes to Japanese unions.

  • avatar
    CatFan78

    GM closed NUMMI twice. Once in 1982 and now again in 2010. Obama decided to shut the plants in the RED states that he didn’t have to worry about in 2012. So the government shut down NUMMI.

    GM left the secured creditors pennyless. And instead gave preferential treatment to unsecured creditors like the UAW. Obama threw 200 years of bankruptcy law out the window to subsidize GM and Chrysler.

    SO GM pulls out, and leaves Toyota to try and continue to make profitable vehicles in a state like CA. GM gave the UAW 60 days notice and stopped their production. Toyota continued to provide employment to the workers for almost a year.

    And Toyota provided $300 million severence to the workers. How much did GM provide to the NUMMI workers? ZERO. NOTHING. GM pulled out and left the NUMMI workers and the UAW high and dry. But the UAW protests Toyota. Tell me this is not political.

    Toyota did the right thing by the NUMMI workers. As best they could in a difficult situation. GM did NOTHING.


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