Nummi Is No More

A Pontiac Vibe rolls off the line at Nummi

A Pontiac Vibe rolls off the line at Nummi

Maybe you’ve never even heard of New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc. After all, it has kept a fairly quiet public profile since its 1984 debut.

I guess GM and Toyota didn’t want to make a huge deal about the two fierce competitors working together. But the Nummi plant in Fremont, California, has quietly built more than 6 million vehicles, including the current variations of the Toyota Corolla, Toyota Tacoma, and Pontiac Vibe.

The partnership gave Toyota a head start on the American market in the mid-’80s and gave GM an up-close view of Toyota’s efficient, lean production strategies. Guess who benefited most from that partnership!

At the time Nummi began, GM had a stronghold on the title of world’s number-one automaker. Toyota was just an upstart in America. In the years since, Toyota has nabbed the #1 title, while GM never implemented Toyota’s lean manufacturing strategy.

On Monday, GM finally said it was done.

Now the 4,700 employees at Nummi find themselves in an uncertain situation, as they wait for Toyota to decide what it will do with the plant. It’ll either be closed, converted to a Toyota-only plant, or use a substantially smaller amount of its capacity.

Since the plant uses UAW labor, I think Toyota should close it before the company gets saddled with union contracts. Toyota is smart, though, and knows the potential backlash for eliminating union jobs could include some really bad PR.

But a few months of bad PR would be better than years of binding and expensive union contracts. Nummi has served its purpose, and it’s time to move on.

Had you heard of Nummi before this news? Should Toyota keep the plant running or close it forever?

-tgriffith

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