Tesla, Toyota to build electric cars at NUMMI

The New United Motor Manufacturing Inc., (NUMMI) plant in Fremont, California.
May 21, 2010 12:05:49 AM PDT
Tesla Motors and Toyota announced Thursday that they will partner to build electric cars at the former NUMMI plant in Fremont.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger Thursday morning gave reporters a sneak peak of a big announcement to come. The governor was at the Google campus in Mountain View to announce the formation of the Green Products Innovation Institute when he mentioned that later in the day he was taking part in a big announcement for Tesla Motors.

"It's an exciting day because Tesla and Toyota are forming a partnership where they take one of the Toyota cars and make them electric and again, they are going to do this in California," Schwarzenegger said.

The governor, Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Toyota President Akio Toyoda were all on hand to announce the partnership that will be based at the former NUMMI plant in Fremont.

"I myself spent time at NUMMI and learned much about working in America there, so I feel a sense of attachment to the plant," Toyoda said.

Toyota is investing $50 million in Tesla. The recently shut down NUMMI plant in Fremont will now be known as Tesla Factory and will be the location for manufacturing Tesla's all-electric Model S sedan.

Toyota has promised an all-electric vehicle for consumers by 2012 and Tesla has promised to deliver its less expensive Model S in 2012.

The director of Stanford University's Center for Automotive Research welcomes the news.

"On the one hand you have companies that are competitors in some sense realizing they need to work together to advance some of these new technologies. I think that may be a trend," Chris Gerdes said.

The Tesla-Toyota partnership is expected to create 1,000 jobs.

The announcement comes as good news for former NUMMI workers, many of whom just received their first severance checks for the shut down. They are hoping to not have to dip into that money to pay for necessities like health care, so new jobs cannot come soon enough.

It was just about a month and a half ago that NUMMI shut its doors officially. There are still a handful of mangers inside finishing bookkeeping now. But many of the 4,700 blue collar workers who spent decades on the assembly line building GM's and later Toyota Corollas and Tacoma pickup trucks are still out of work.

Thursday's announcement about Tesla did not come as a surprise to the United Auto Workers union. Labor executives in Detroit had been negotiating to get an auto manufacturer back into the Fremont plant.

Union officials say there could be 800-1,200 jobs for former NUMMI workers to new build electric cars. They are just hoping it is not a long process and that the plant opens its doors again soon.

"Our members are the best auto workers, not only in the state of California, but in the country," local UAW spokesperson Sergio Santos said.

Analysts are calling the joint venture between Toyota and Tesla historic and though production is expected to be much smaller in scale, it will give a much needed boost, not only to workers, but to the surrounding area which was bracing for massive unemployment.

"We're looking at a historic moment today because there is a green manufacturing future for tomorrow, there's jobs for today with this new partnership, Harley Shaiken of the UC Berkeley Labor Center said.

Whether there will be a single shift for workers or they will go around the clock remains to be seen. But some workers had just begun training for new careers and they are hoping this venture means they can go back to making cars.


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