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Toyota to close NUMMI plant?

by Drew Johnson

Toyota has yet to make an official decision on the fate of its New United Motor Manufacturing Incorporated joint-venture factory, but it sounds as if the Japanese automaker is seriously considering abandoning the Fremont, California plant. The future of the plant was put into jeopardy earlier this year after General Motors left its 50 percent stake of the NUMMI plant in bankruptcy court.

Reports out of Japan last month indicated Toyota was considering ditching its stake in the NUMMI plant, with comments by Takahiko Ijichi, Toyota senior managing director, earlier on Tuesday seemingly supporting those rumors.

"GM's withdrawal does not mean that Toyota has to bear all the expenses for NUMMI," Ijichi told Automotive News. "We are even 50 percent shareholders, and our liability is within that contribution."

With Toyota only willing to fund half of the NUMMI plant's operations, it doesn't seem like that plant has much of a future. Moreover, Toyot's contract with the UAW at the NUMMI plant - Toyot's only UAW-staffed production plant - is set to expire later this month, with no progress being made on contract talks. The Pontiac Vibe is also slated to end production at the NUMMI plant this month, perhaps signifying the end of the factory altogether.

Toyota current produces the Toyota Matrix, Corolla and Tacoma and the California plant, but has plenty of excess U.S. capacity with lower labor rates.

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