Lawmakers’ plea for NUMMI goes unheeded

California’s U.S. Senators, joined by much of the Bay Area’s House delegation, wrote to Toyota today to forestall closure of the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI) plant in Fremont, but apparently it’s too little, too late.

NUMMI is a joint venture between General Motors and Toyota; GM announced last month it will withdraw, and Toyota has been considering doing the same. The plant’s closure would cost 4,500 California jobs directly, and an estimated 35,000 or more indirectly.

The lawmakers wrote to Toyota Corp. President Akio Toyoda to emphasize NUMMI’s importance to California’s economy and to offer to work with Toyota to keep the plant open. Also, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., reports she recently spoke on the phone with Toyota Motor America President Yoshimi Inaba about her willingness to help find solutions to keep the plant in operation’ other California lawmakers have talked to company officials as well.

But even as the lawmakers announced their effort, media began reporting Toyota’s decision to pull out of the venture and close the plant.

UPDATE @ 5:11 P.M.: Never say die, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office insists. The governor has talked with and written to the Toyota execs, too, and has formed a “Red Team” of stakeholders to work on keeping the plant open. “The Schwarzenegger Administration is actively engaged with NUMMI’s partners, Toyota, federal officials, local officials, labor, suppliers and other stakeholders to work together to ensure the future success of the facility,” David Crane, the Governor’s special advisor for jobs and economic growth, said in a release. “Our office will continue to respect Toyota’s wishes to keep discussions private as we work together to determine the best path for ensuring NUMMI’s continued operations in Fremont.”

See the letter, after the jump…

July 23, 2009

Mr. Akio Toyoda
Toyota Corporation
1 Toyota-cho,
Toyota-shi, Aichi 471

Dear Mr. Toyoda:

We are writing to express our sincere interest regarding the future of New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc., (NUMMI) a General Motors-Toyota joint venture from which General Motors (GM) has announced that it will withdraw. We are greatly concerned that GM’s decision creates uncertainty about NUMMI’s future. We are eager to see that all interested parties come to the table to arrive at a solution that will secure NUMMI’s future.

We have followed the NUMMI experiment since it began in 1984, when one of your predecessors, Shoichiro Toyoda, brought the efficiency of the Toyota Production System, a model of lean manufacturing, to the San Francisco Bay area. We watched with great pride as the Japanese management and production methods – under the leadership of Tatsuro Toyoda – succeeded, as the plant went from one shift to three, and as it emerged as a unique model factory that has produced a wide range of vehicles since the 1980s. We are confident that you, as a former manager at NUMMI, can appreciate its unique history and value.

NUMMI has been a great asset to both California and the United States, demonstrating that American workers can build Toyota vehicles in a win-win for both. Today NUMMI employs approximately 4,500 workers and is indirectly responsible for more than 35,000 jobs. We deeply regret the fact that General Motors has determined that it must withdraw.

With thousands of jobs at stake, many of us have spoken with Toyota executives to express our concern in recent weeks. We look forward to hearing from you about this matter, and we are eager to work together on this very important challenge.


Senator Dianne Feinstein
Senator Barbara Boxer
Representative Pete Stark
Representative Mike Thompson
Representative Zoe Lofgren
Representative Barbara Lee
Representative Jerry McNerney
Representative Adam Schiff
Representative Jane Harman
Representative George Miller
Representative Sam Farr
Representative Bob Filner
Representative Grace Napolitano
Representative Linda Sanchez
Representative Jackie Speier
Representative Mike Honda
Representative Dennis Cardoza

Cc: Yoshimi Inaba, President of Toyota Motor America

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.


  1. Should’ve offerred them and all companies a real stimulus, such as cutting the payroll tax in half. Bailing out the competition says you don’t play fair. Way to go Bay Area politicians. The closing of the plant will have impact on others too, think about the vendors, services, and subcontractors that keep the facility going. Think about the loss of revenue back into the commmunity these people placed with their earned wages. This plant built a product – wealth creation – more of what you should be concentrating upon, not the majority of nonsense in the stimulus.

  2. Sure you speak the “truth”, but if they didn’t write this letter, they wouldn’t be doing their jobs.

    Way to throw stones from the cheap seats.

  3. The letter doesn’t say anything other than “you need to respond to us” and “let’s get interested parties to the table.” Where is their letter to GM asking them to reconsider pulling out. If this was something GM was planning or considering, then why didn’t the lawmakers make it part of the GM bailout. I have more faith in this JV than the tossing of millions into the Detroit vacuum. Writing this letter of little content is “doing their jobs”? C’mon where is the leadership?

    Just another stone from the cheap seats, as the special interest these lawmakers represent have the 1st class seats.

  4. Check out West Point, Georgia. Kia is opening up a new plant there. 2600 jobs new jobs. $17 starting salary. This year.

    California imposes a tax on investment in
    manufacturing equipment. This is a tax that nearly all of NUMMI’s competitors in other states do not pay.
    Likewise, electricity for manufacturers in California is more than twice as expensive as it is in most other states.

    Nummi only made money in 1992, the “result of California’s taxes and labor and pollution rules, as well as the plant’s UAW contracts”, according to an estimate by Tokyo-based Credit Suisse Group AG analyst Koji Endo.

    By 2012 California is to begin a program aimed at taxing greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent. Business groups in the state including the California Chamber of Commerce and California Small Business Roundtable have said the program will boost energy and other expenses for companies in the state.

    Georgia offers factories like Kia property tax abatements, lower energy prices, lower state income taxes, reduced regulation, and real infrastructure improvements.

    California’s offer? Harsh words, roundtable discussions, and more taxes.

    Just this week: A coalition of tax reform and labor groups has filed a proposed ballot initiative for 2010 that would increase corporate taxes by an estimated $2.5 billion, targetting companies that make over $1B a year.

    Toyota leaving is not a surprise. What is a surprise is that individuals who continue to vote for anti-business government think that Toyota leaving is unrelated to their voting.

  5. Thank you Ulno! I guess that’s a 100-ton boulder from the cheap seats.

  6. California is not business friendly and Toyota is making the right business decision to close down NUMMI.

  7. California points with pride… to lost manufacturing jobs! On the other hand, our politicos could point out we’re the nation’s leader in holistic healing clinics!

  8. Yeah, I guess those NUMMI workers should open some medical “Mary Jane” dens. Does that count as a “green” job?

  9. Arne Simonsen, You wouldn’t by chance be someone who “hopes” Obama fails, are you?

    Arne Simonsen isn’t friendly to Working Californians and the people of Antioch made the right decision.

  10. Arne is a realist.

    People who live in a fantasy world hate realists.

    By the way, you need to study up on your dimmiecrat talking points. It’s “working families” not “working Californians”.

  11. Oh elwood, It’s so hard to take someone seriously when they love making assumption.

  12. In no way did anyone who works at NUMMI help make california “unfriendly” to business and that being known, they don’t deserve to lose their jobs from the lack of representation by those we call “legislator”.

    Arne may be a realist, it doesn’t make his comment any less “partisan”.

  13. “they don’t deserve to lose their jobs from the lack of representation by those we call “legislator”.”

    That would include your beloved Marky Mark, the recent Republican and long time incumbent, would it not?

  14. Elwood,

    This whole conversation was born from your assumption. A brilliant and clever person like you ought to refrain from such shenanigans.

    Mark Desaulnier is not “my boy”, has never been my boy, will never be my boy. All I stated was John Garamendi is no better, nor is Joan Buchanan, or even Ellen Tauscher for that matter.

  15. I don’t know whose posts you’re reading but I wish you’d stop putting words in my mouth.

    You have asserted that I said a number of things which I did not say.

    I have quoted you.

    Which would you say has more credibility?

  16. Can’t we all agree that our local elected representatives of Congress and our two illustrious Senators have let us and NUMMI down? The potential replacements (front runners that is) for CD10 just seem to be from the same fabric. Somehow I see a good debate question related to NUMMI, GM bailout, and the overall economy in this story – Lisa V. please take note.

  17. Senators Feinstein and Boxer along with all the tag-along representatives offered nothing for Mr Toyoda except for name droppingand a historical briefing. They did not offer Mr Toyoda or Yoshimi Inaba, President of Toyota Motor America a single incentive to stay other than point out how many jobs will be lost.

    Where was a mention of tax incentives or any incentives? Should Toyota be concerned about California’s or the Bay Area’s lose when they can move to another state and conduct business at a profit?

    Our two US Senators along with 15 representatives simply gave a brief history overview with some name dropping. Where were they back in 2008 or earlier this year? Giving incentives would have helped keep NUMMI open and people employed. I hate to think the number of people that will have to bail out of their homes as a result of the closure not to mention the ripple affect it will have on the Bay Area and California.

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