Is Tesla Coming to a Mothballed GM Plant Near You?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
is tesla coming to a mothballed gm plant near you

Tesla’s Fremont, California assembly plant once cranked out Pontiac Vibes and Toyota Matrixes under a joint venture between General Motors and Toyota, but could a current GM factory one day give way to Tesla production?

Tesla CEO Elon Musk put that possibility out there during a 60 Minutes interview on the weekend. As one might expect, Musk’s comments were greeted with skepticism.

(Associate Editor’s note: Booze is always a cherished holiday stocking stuffer.)

Speaking to Lesley Stahl (who’s a big ol’ meanie, according to some of Musk’s most ardent supporters), Musk remarked, “It’s possible that we would be interested. If they were going to sell a plant or not use it that we would take it over,” when speaking about GM’s recent plant closure announcement.

The facilities targeted for possible closure include Michigan’s Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly, Lordstown Assembly of Ohio, Ontario’s Oshawa Assembly, and two transmission plants in Maryland and Michigan. Gone from these plants, as well as GM lots everywhere, would be the Chevrolet Cruze, Volt, and Impala, Buick LaCrosse, and Cadillac’s XTS and CT6.

Currently, Musk’s ambitions center around China, where Tesla is in the early stages of building an assembly plant in Shanghai (and eating it in terms of sales and revenue, due to tariffs woes). That plant will require quite a bit of capital, and Tesla only posted a profit last quarter for the second time in its history. Cash-positive at last, but facing pressures. Also, Musk has a history of impulsively saying things that shouldn’t be listened to or believed.

Still, the company needs space in which to build its upcoming Model Y and long-promised pickup. An existing facility on land zoned for the building’s use would be a better option than sourcing land, seeking approvals, and covering building costs, unless it plans to go the tent route for all future models.

One issue facing a Rust Belt Tesla plant would be the regional pull of the United Auto Workers, which represents workers at the three U.S. GM plants. Ontario, with its higher electricity and labor costs, seems a less-likely option for Tesla. The exchange rate between the two countries might not be so favorable to the U.S. in years to come.

Indeed, Musk took time during his interview to slam the UAW, claiming an “aggressive campaign” is afoot at Fremont to unionize the workers there. Claims of safety violations, high injury rates, and other unfavorable business at the plant are a “load of nonsense” created by the UAW, he added.

The UAW, meanwhile, is busy fighting GM to keep the plants open. The automaker describes the plants as “unallocated” rather than idled or closed, but union brass claim that terminology won’t get GM out of its contract obligations. In Ontario, Unifor boss Jerry Dias said Tesla is not the answer to Oshawa Assembly’s problems.

[Images: General Motors]

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  • Steve203 Steve203 on Dec 12, 2018

    I would rather see FCA take over Detroit/Hamtamck or Lordstown. FCA has been crying for years they can't get enough GCs out of Jefferson North and the rumored line in Mack 2 looks awfully improvised. Detroit/Hamtramck would give them more space than Jefferson North for GC production, and it could be retooled for the 2021 model without disrupting production at JN. That would free up JN for some of the other things they have in the works, like the midsize Ram pickup.

    • Tenperct Tenperct on Dec 14, 2018

      That would be great!! from Dodge Main to Detroit/Hamtamck to FCA. The circle is complete.

  • WildcatMatt WildcatMatt on Dec 20, 2018

    Musk probably could have picked up Wilmington Assembly for $1 a year ago, now it looks like it will be torn down:

  • Wjtinfwb Over the years I've owned 3, one LH (a Concorde) a Gen 1 300 and a Gen 2 300C "John Varvatos". The Concorde was a very nice car for the time with immense room inside and decent power from the DOHC 3.5L. But quality was awful, it spent more time in the shop than the driveway. It gave way to a Gen 1 300, OK but the V6 was underwhelming in this car compared to the Concorde but did it's job. The Gen 1's letdown was the awful interior with acres of plastic, leather that did it's best imitation of vinyl and a featureless dashboard that looked lifted from a cheaper car. My last one was a '14 300C John Varvatos with the Pentastar. Great car, sufficient power and exceptional highway mileage. The interior was much better than the original as well. It was felled by a defective instrument cluster that took over 90 days to fix and was ultimately lemon law' d back to FCA. I'd love one of the 392 powered final edition 300s but understand they're already sold out and if I had an extra 60k available, would likely choose a CPO BMW 540i for comparable money.
  • Dukeisduke Thanks Cary. Folks need to make sure they buy the correct antifreeze, since there are so many OEM-specific ones out there nowadays (Dex-Cool, Ford gold, Toyota red and pink, etc.).And sorry to hear about your family situation - my wife and I have been dealing with her 88-yo mom, moving her into independent senior living, selling her house, etc. It's a lot to deal with.
  • FreedMike Always lusted after that first-gen 300 - particularly the "Heritage Edition," which had special 300 badging and a translucent plastic steering wheel (ala the '50s and '60s "letter cars").
  • Dave M. Although the effective takeover by Daimler is pooped upon, this is one they got right. I wasn't a fan of the LHs, mostly due to reported mechanical, NVH and build quality issues, but I though Chrysler hit it out of the park with the LXs. The other hyped release that year was the Ford Five Hundred, which, while a well-built car with superior interior space, couldn't hold a candle to the 300.
  • Art Vandelay I always liked those last FWD 300's. Been ages since I've seen one on the road though. Lots of time in the RWD ones as rentals. No complaints whatsoever.