Chinese delegation visits NUMMI plant


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The nine-member delegation also met with Carson, Supervisor Scott Haggerty, County Administrator Susan Muranishi and other county officials at the county building in Oakland, Carson said today.

However, Carson, Haggerty and Muranishi had to cut the meeting short because the Board of Supervisors had a lengthy hearing on appointing a successor to District Attorney Tom Orloff, who suddenly announced his retirement last week.

Carson, who chairs the East Bay Economic Development Alliance, said the meeting with the Chinese delegation, which was only in the area for 24 hours, had been arranged two weeks ago and it was "upsetting" that it had to be shortened.

NUMMI is a 25-year-old joint venture between General Motors and Toyota, but GM announced in June that it would withdraw from the partnership and Toyota announced on Aug. 27 that it won't order any vehicles from the auto plant after next March.

Toyota is still making Toyota Corolla Cars and Toyota Tacoma trucks at the Fremont facility but 4,600 employees there will lose their jobs after March if another automaker doesn't take over the facility.

Carson said he reached out to various foreign officials in February after hearing rumors that the NUMMI venture might be coming to an end.

He said there have been "a series of communications back and forth" between local leaders and officials in China, Korea and other countries.

Carson said the Chinese delegation is the first foreign group to visit the NUMMI plant but he anticipates that there will be visits in the future by officials from Korea and other countries, although nothing definite has been arranged so far.

He said the Chinese delegation "jumped out and surprised us by how quickly they moved to communicate and to view the site."

Carson declined to reveal many specifics about the Chinese group except to say that it comes from an area with a large economic and technology development zone.

The contingent included some elected officials and leaders of economic and technology development groups, he said.

The group from China as well as the other groups that have expressed interest have "multiple manufacturing capabilities" and have a history of manufacturing cars, among other items, Carson said.

However, he said it's uncertain if any of the groups would want to build cars at the NUMMI facility because it's perceived that it costs more money to build cars there than at other locations around the country and around the world.

The car market is "over-saturated" and "everyone is cautious" about building more cars, Carson said.

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