Tesla venture breathes new life to NUMMI facility


Tesla's Vice President of Manufacturing Gilbert Passin says the Palo Alto start-up will acquire the centerpiece of the former NUMMI facility in Fremont. It is known as Parcel No. 2 and it covers 210 acres, and no purchase price is being disclosed.

Passin did however give ABC7 a timetable for Tesla actually occupying the facility. Just four months ago, Passin was an executive at Toyota and knows the NUMMI facility well.

"In terms of the infrastructure of the building, I know pretty much a lot about its detail. In terms of moving in there, probably this fall we will have access to the facility," he said.

Tesla will start by hiring about 500 people and says by the time production begins in 2012 on the Model S, it will need 1,000 new employees.

The United Auto Workers or UAW is pushing for the joint venture operation to have a union shop but Tesla is not making any promises.

"It's a little early to talk about that. Honestly, we are looking to establish a Tesla culture where we have a very good rapport with our team members," Passin said.

For laid off NUMMI worker Marshall Baber, just the promise of a job is encouraging. Baber worked at NUMMI for nine years.

"Whether it's union or not union, we need people to go back to work. I personally don't really care but I need the job back," he said.

In addition to the 4,700 jobs lost at NUMMI, there are tens of thousands of jobs lost from suppliers who provided auto parts to the cars and trucks built at NUMMI.

Injex Industries in Hayward has already laid of 450 workers and just a handful remain to close off operations.

Thursday's announcement gives people like Froy Martinez optimism that some of those jobs can be resurrected once production begins.

"The group that was laid off, plus the thousands of people affected by the NUMMI shutdown, this gives us all new hope," he said.

Passin says Tesla will make efforts to reengage some of the suppliers. He says an all electric vehicle is a different kind of product but wants to utilize as many local suppliers as possible.

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