Feinstein, Boxer try to keep NUMMI open

July 24, 2009 7:31:55 PM PDT
U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and 15 members of California's congressional delegation have offered to work with Toyota Motors Co. to help keep the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. plant in Fremont open.

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NUMMI is a 25-year-old joint venture between General Motors and Toyota, but GM announced in June that it will withdraw from the partnership. GM had previously announced that it would stop making the Pontiac Vibe at NUMMI in August.

According to a statement issued by Feinstein's office, Toyota, which is still making Toyota Corolla cars and Toyota Tacoma trucks at the Fremont facility, is reportedly also considering withdrawing from the joint venture but Toyota officials have said no final decision has been made and the process will take some time.

Toyota officials didn't respond to numerous requests for comment today, nor did leaders of United Auto Workers Local 2244, which represents employees at the plant. The union's agreement with NUMMI expires on Aug. 8.

In a terse statement, NUMMI spokesman Lance Tomasu said, "Toyota has taken a direction, but has not made a final decision regarding NUMMI."

Tomasu forwarded a statement by Toyota Motor North America spokeswoman Mira Sleilati saying that Toyota is studying whether "it could be economically feasible to contract with NUMMI without GM" and Toyota "must also seriously consider taking necessary steps to dissolve the joint venture."

Gov. Schwarzenegger said he remains committed to working with NUMMI, Toyota, federal officials and stakeholders to ensure the success of the NUMMI plant.

David Crane, the governor's special advisor for jobs and economic growth, said in a statement, "Our office will continue to respect Toyota's wishes to keep discussions private as we work together to determine the best path for ensuring NUMMI's continued operations in Fremont."

Schwarzenegger said that in cooperation with the Bay Area Economic Development Agency he has sent a representative to Japan to meet with Toyota President Akio Toyoda.

Schwarzenegger said he's also spoken to and corresponded with federal car czar Ron Bloom, whose formal title is senior advisor on the auto industry at the U.S. Department of Treasury.

In a July 16 letter to Bloom, Schwarzenegger said, "It would be of great assistance to NUMMI and its work force if GM and the federal government aggressively help NUMMI continue its manufacturing activities by ensuring a smooth and cost-effective transition to Toyota or a successor partnership." Feinstein said she recently spoke by phone with Yoshimi Inaba, the president of Toyota Motor North America, to indicate her willingness to work with Toyota to find solutions to keep the plant in operation. According to NUMMI's Web site, the plant has 5,440 employees, including 4,550 workers represented by UAW Local 2244 and 890 salaried employees. The joint venture does business with 3,600 North American suppliers, including 1,000 California suppliers, and supports 50,000 total jobs, according to the Web site. Fremont Mayor Bob Wasserman said today that it's been difficult to get information from Toyota and NUMMI officials about the facility's future and there are conflicting reports about when a final decision will be made.

"Everybody has their own time frame," Wasserman said.

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