Local businesses elated with Toyota-Tesla deal

May 22, 2010 12:58:02 AM PDT
The shutdown NUMMI plant in Fremont will be coming back to life, and possibly some other businesses connected to it, following a deal between Toyota and Tesla Motors.

Tesla is already hiring former NUMMI employees and Toyota is investing $50 million to build electric cars. The deal has the potential to create 10,000 jobs between factory workers and suppliers.

For the past 25 years, Injex Industries of Hayward was one of the predominant suppliers for Toyota vehicles at the NUMMI plant before it shut down. On average, it supplied about 94 parts per car.

"For Toyota we were doing door panels and interior garnishes, seat components and a lot of the plastic that you normally see in the interior of the car," Jay Harrison from Injex Industries said.

After the Fremont plant shut on April 1, not only did 4,700 NUMMI workers lose their jobs, but 450 were laid off at Injex and its manufacturing has been winding down.

"We're pursuing other opportunities, but until those materialize, we're mothballing the plant, you might say," Harrison said.

But Injex says its business may just be saved now that Palo Alto-based Tesla Motors is forming a joint venture with Toyota to build electric cars at the old NUMMI plant.

"We believe we have a strong opportunity with Tesla. We haven't seen the product so it's kind of hard to tell how the product would match up to our capabilities, but we believe we could be a positive supplier for them," Harrison said.

Injex is one of dozens of California auto parts suppliers whose existence hinged on work with NUMMI.

UC Berkeley labor professor Harley Shaiken says whether electric or gas-run cars, any such auto production could power an economic lifeline to these suppliers.

"They were out of business in many cases and all of the sudden there is a future going forward for the new vehicles that will be built there. Many of the electric vehicles use a lot of parts that are in any automobile," he said.

Tesla's initial plan is only to manufacture 20,000 electric cars a year, so clearly its need for parts will not be as great as for the 500,000 vehicles previously built at NUMMI.

It will also likely take a couple years before any production gets underway, but suppliers say they hope to get a piece of the business.


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