Assembly Plant Favored by Bankrupt Automakers Can Be Yours

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
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assembly plant favored by bankrupt automakers can be yours

The former General Motors Wilmington Assembly Plant, which cranked out Saturns, Oldsmobiles and Pontiacs before falling victim to economic and corporate forces, is looking for a new owner.

This time, however, it wants a buyer that isn’t a luxury plug-in electric car maker that folds before a single vehicle can leave the factory.

According to Delaware Online, Wanxiang America Inc. put the 142-acre property up for sale as it attempts to rid itself of an asset (liability?) left over from Fisker Automotive’s bankruptcy castoffs. The Chinese conglomerate purchased Fisker’s assets in 2014 following the short-lived automaker’s meteoric rise and crash.

Whoever buys the property will surely enjoy its huge amount of space, history aplenty, and Delaware’s low, low property taxes.

First opened in 1947, the 3.2 million square foot plant was once a jewel in GM’s crown. Millions of vehicles built by GM’s Buick-Oldsmobile-Pontiac Assembly Division dutifully rolled off the line in Wilmington, only ceasing when bankruptcy overtook the auto giant. Its final vehicle? A 2009 Pontiac Solstice convertible.

During its formidable years, numerous Middle America models rolled out of Wilmington, perhaps the most infamous being the Chevrolet Chevette. When the plant closed in 2009, upstart Fisker Automotive saw an opportunity. The California-based automaker was readying its extended-range electric Karma sedan and saw Wilmington as the perfect spot to build its future Atlantic model. It bought the plant in October of that year, but the assembly line never moved again.

Fisker’s failure was swift. Technical problems plagued the expensive Karma sedan and the company failed to meet obligations laid out by the Department of Energy, which had provided huge loans. Unable to repay them, Fisker declared bankruptcy, leaving taxpayers on the hook for millions and the Delaware plant in darkness.

Don’t expect another automaker to set up shop in Wilmington. The plant’s unglamorous future probably holds a big-box retail distribution operation.

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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6 of 47 comments
  • Zipper69 Zipper69 on Oct 21, 2016

    Only Pontiac is regretted here. The bean counter logic of dumping it and retaining Buick still defeats me.

    • 5280thinair 5280thinair on Oct 21, 2016

      Buick was apparently on the chopping block as well but was saved because it was GM's primary brand in China and sold a lot of cars there. On my first trip to Beijing in 2007 I noticed a lot of Buicks. The percentage of them seems to have dropped on every subsequent trip.

  • El scotto El scotto on Oct 22, 2016

    My Dear sweet Jeebus! Car enthusiasts trying to defend the vega, chevette, or citation. Think of them as "Old GM's" final act in a car-production tragedy that drove hundreds of thousands to Japanese or German rides. Those hundreds of thousands never looked back. Although I was sorely tempted by a CPO Lincoln; an 18k selling price and "fawn over me" warranty was tempting. I went Lexus instead.

    • See 2 previous
    • Vulpine Vulpine on Oct 22, 2016

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