Friday, February 5, 2010

Toyota to Close NUMMI, Teamsters, UAW Protest Job Losses, car transport, car hauling

The NUMMI plant in California, a joint venture between Toyota and GM, seems to be on its last legs, much to the chagrin of Teamster car haulers. GM has abandoned its share of the plant during bankruptcy and Toyota is about to do likewise; the Corolla produced there is part of the recall that has set Toyota on its heels. Toyota is planning to shift production of the Tacoma pickup to San Antonio and move Corolla production to Canada and Japan.

That might please the Canadian Auto Workers, but the UAW doesn’t like it; the move has set up a tag-team protest of the NUMMI closure between the Teamsters, the UAW and the environmental group Friends of the Earth, who are going to exchange unpleasantries at the Japanese embassy in Washington on Thursday. Protesting in front of Toyota HQ might be more effective, but doing so in Washington in front of the Washington press corps makes for better PR; the Teamsters protested Chrysler’s apparent lack of interest in unionized car transport in front of the Italian embassy last year, playing up Chrysler’s Fiat connection.

The move should cost some Teamster car hauling jobs, as the Japanese imports are more likely to move by rail than the NUMMI-made cars. The environmental angle here is that moving the cars by sea from Japan will leave a greater carbon footprint.

However, NUMMI’s time has come and gone. When it got started in 1984, it was a way for GM to learn Toyota’s quality-control tricks and for Toyota to get pointers from GM on how to manufacture in the US. A quarter-century on, and Six Sigma black belts abound in US manufacturing; we’ve gotten the quality control bug and Toyota has gone native, as the Lexington high school football highlights from Toyota Stadium in Georgetown point out.