By on October 21, 2016

01 - Chevrolet Chevettes Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee Martin

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.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

47 Comments on “Assembly Plant Favored by Bankrupt Automakers Can Be Yours...”


  • avatar
    Vulpine

    And I live within 20 miles of that plant. There’s been many bidders, but no buyers… so far.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    Nice photo.

    “Shovel them under and let me work.”

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “The plant’s unglamorous future probably holds a big-box retail distribution operation.”

    To me, any manufacturing would be the most glamorous. Second-most glamorous would be any operation that provides people with permanent jobs.

    I wonder how environmentally poisoned this site is.

  • avatar
    Joe Btfsplk

    Great looking Chevette… Diesel?

    • 0 avatar
      here4aSammich

      Negative. That’s a ’79. Had the new front end and the original rear. Only year for that combo. Went to the wraparound taillights on the’80. The diesel came later.

  • avatar
    Luke42

    AFIAK, the former Mitsubishi plant in Bloomington Illinois is available, too.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    “Its final vehicle? A 2009 Pontiac Solstice convertible.”

    Ew.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Could have been worse…AZTEK

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Don’t know why you would say, “ew,” that was actually a pretty fun little roadster. Problem is, GM killed Pontiac and Saturn (Sky) off before it could really get rolling and refused to migrate it over to Chevy where it probably would have done some good.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        -Build quality was terrible.
        -Rather under-powered.
        -Interior was a joke.
        -With the top down there was no trunk.
        -Top operation was a joke.

        The Sky was much better looking, but not a better product.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          I drove the Sky at the dealership and was a reasonably good friend of the salesperson because I’d purchased another car previously and went in frequently just to talk to him and look at new models (the two and two-half doors of the Ion were especially interesting) and honestly, the build quality looked and sounded a lot better than you’re claiming. I’ll grant it was marginally underpowered, but that was more due to using the wrong grade of gas in it as my Saturn Vue with the exact same engine was a little rocket at nearly 800 pounds heavier (and a manual transmission.) I’ve learned that the showroom tune of the engines isn’t their broken-in performance as four- to five thousand miles of lively driving will loosen them up nicely.

          And you don’t buy a roadster for its trunk.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            If you think the following looks good, I’m not sure we have anything in common.

            http://adamcomotorsports.com/wp-content/gallery/2008-pontiac-solstice-roadster/solstice8.jpg

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            You were specifically talking about quality, not trim. Just because you don’t like the way it looks doesn’t mean everyone else will agree with you. It served the purpose and, with the wheel up in a more normal driving position, was more than functional. From your statement, I would assume a flat piece of sheet metal with holes punched in it for the instruments and gauges would have looked far better, even if more primitive.

          • 0 avatar
            5280thinair

            “And you don’t buy a roadster for its trunk.”

            While no one expects much trunk space in a small sports car, having effectively none is a deal-killer for anyone who wants to take said car out for a weekend trip. I looked at a Solstice back in the day and was very surprised to find that, with the top down and a passenger, there was no place to stow even something like a soft-sided backpack. Assuming you have a significant other, that made the car only suitable for day-trips. No overnight jaunts, no errand runs that would result in cargo beyond what your passenger could fit in their lap.

            Miatas have a small but serviceable trunk, and its capacity isn’t affected by having the top down. TheS2000 managed it as well. I can’t fathom why GM couldn’t or wouldn’t do the same.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            “Assuming you have a significant other, that made the car only suitable for day-trips. No overnight jaunts, no errand runs that would result in cargo beyond what your passenger could fit in their lap.”

            The same could have been said for the old-school ‘mid-sized’ standard cab pickups, don’t you? Sure, you’ve got that big, empty box in the back, but would you consider your backpack safe out there as you crawl through little po-dunk towns on that weekend jaunt? Of course, at the same time if you’re hitting the world’s longest yard sale, that big open bed does come in handy, don’t it?

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            @5280

            Rushed, cheap engineering where everything was an afterthought – that’s why it doesn’t have a trunk, and the top operation is comical.

      • 0 avatar

        YIKES! That’s the ugliest dash I’ve ever seen!

        http://adamcomotorsports.com/wp-content/gallery/2008-pontiac-solstice-roadster/solstice8.jpg

    • 0 avatar
      thattruthguy

      If you don’t like the Solstice, that’s okay, but it sold as well as the Miata in the US. That may not have been enough to make a good business case, but it’s probably the most that anyone could expect. It was well accepted by the market.

      • 0 avatar
        el scotto

        With an unusable trunk with the top down; the Solstice/Sky were glaring examples of GM once again almost getting it right. Yes, you can get a set of golf clubs in a Miata’s trunk. Oh, and damned hard to find a Pontiac dealer these days. But I’m sure “New GM” has warehouses of parts for its orphaned brands

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    Used to own a Chevette just like that one, crappy car, but great times. I’d trade in my nicer car for those good times any day!

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      After my uncle retired from 20 years of service in the Army, he moved back to the US and bought a bright red Chevette (Scooter edition, no less!). I have pics somewhere of me as a scrawny kid standing next to it. Of course, being my uncle’s I thought it had to be one of the best cars ever. Man, did I have a lot to learn about cars.

  • avatar
    EquipmentJunkie

    I toured that Wilmington GM plant as a kid back around 1980…it was the first time I saw robotic welders. About three or four robots were helping to weld Chevette bodies, as I recall. About 10 years later, I toured Opel’s historic Rüsselsheim plant. By then, robots were everywhere.

  • avatar
    tomLU86

    Some one loved that Chevette!

    Check out the sunscreen under the windshield.

    For good reason. These were reliable cars, with great handling!

    Perhaps they weren’t roomy, or smooth, but they were better than Vegas, Pintos, and Datsun B-210s.

    In fact, all 3 visible cars are GM products: 77-79 Pontiac Catalina, and a 78-80 Malibu or LeMans 2-door.

    Just think if, instead of Chevettes, GM had built Opels there in the 1970s, and Opel Vectras (vs the Saturn L200/300) in the early 2000s.

    The Chevette was not bad, but the Saturn was a colossal waste of money for a car inferior to it’s German cousin.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      I grew up with an ’81 Chevette that my mom owned from ’83 to ’91. It was not in the least reliable. But, in its favor, it was extremely cheap to fix when it broke. Parts were cheap and everything about it was easy to work on, so even Ray down at the local service station could fix it without drama.

      As far as handling, it was extremely tail-happy, which kept her awake and cautious in the Seattle rain and was sheer terror in snowy or icy conditions. It’s the one car I’ve ever been familiar with that would have been bad in the snow with snow tires.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        To this day I am not quite sure of the difference in A) size or B) age or C) goodness of the Chevette and Citation.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          Chevette = heavily massaged Isuzu I-Mark, subcompact, RWD, 1976-1988 (by the end of which it was more or less in the market position of a Yugo). They were penalty boxes in every respect but reasonably durable.

          Citation = GM X-Body, compact, FWD, 1980-1985. Was a more satisfying car to drive and far more comfortable than a Chevette when it was working. But it usually wasn’t working, or if it was working it was probably also rusting. These are the cars, more than any others, that blew up GM.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Why thank you. They overlapped entirely, wouldn’t have thought that.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            “These are the cars, more than any others, that blew up GM.”

            You forgot the Chevy Vega and its cross-brand sisters that to me did NOT earn the reputation it received. I actually liked them and when driven with some skill were actually pretty good as a ‘sporty’ economy car. (Then again, stick a Buick V6 under the hood and that ‘sporty’ didn’t need quotes.)

    • 0 avatar
      EquipmentJunkie

      I cut my teeth on an ’81 Chevette diesel as a young 16-year old driver. The only car I have ever been able to drive constantly at 10/10ths!

      The heavy, 1.8l Isuzu diesel up front made for weird handling dynamics because the diesel version was weighted like a front-wheel drive car. My younger brother still talks about the time when I accidentally did a 180-degree spin on the gradual uphill turn on damp entrance to the school at 10-mph in a gutless diesel. He still can’t believe it happened…and I can’t either since it seemed to deny physics.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      “Just think if, instead of Chevettes, GM had built Opels there in the 1970s…”

      Er, the Chevette was the US version of the Opel Kadett.

  • avatar
    zipper69

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

    • 0 avatar
      5280thinair

      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.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    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.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • SunnyvaleCA: >>> And I’m sorry but if you are going to make design a key point <<< More like: if...
  • SPPPP: Are we suuuuuuuure this is a crossover? Because if this is a crossover, then I think that makes the old Suzuki...
  • SPPPP: Which of these 3 ideas is more wasteful of time and talent … Sending the NSX technicians home without...
  • -Nate: WEll ; You always wanted a convertible, right ? . -Nate
  • SPPPP: If he had kidnapped a Walmart customer FROM WALMART, then I think so.

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributors

  • Timothy Cain, Canada
  • Matthew Guy, Canada
  • Ronnie Schreiber, United States
  • Bozi Tatarevic, United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States
  • Mark Baruth, United States
  • Moderators

  • Adam Tonge, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States