The High Cost of Closing Down the NUMMI Auto Plant

Twenty-five thousand jobs and $2.3 billion dollars. That’s what California stands to lose if Toyota follows through with its plan to shut down the New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc. (NUMMI), plant in Fremont at the end of the month, according to a study released today by a Blue Ribbon Commission. The Commission, appointed by State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, was tasked with assessing the economic, social, and environmental costs of Toyota’s planned closure of the state’s only auto assembly plant.

UC Berkeley Professor Harley Shaiken, chair of the Blue Ribbon Commission:

NUMMI is in the heart of Toyota’s most important U.S. market, NUMMI has Toyota’s most skilled and experienced workforce in the country – one that has consistently won industry acclaim for quality – and California is at the cutting edge of both technological innovation and the green future the company wants to lead. NUMMI and its highly experienced and skilled workers should be valued by Toyota as a key asset for the company as it struggles to reestablish its reputation for quality and green innovation.

The Commission’s report validates what we already know — there are no good reasons for closing NUMMI and many good ones for keeping it open. The report found:

  • Even during the recent downturn in auto sales, Toyota’s share of the U.S. market continued to expand. Toyota could easily operate all of its U.S. plants — including NUMMI — at full capacity and still not meet the demands of the U.S. market.

  • NUMMI’s closure would deepen the recession in areas that are already among the hardest hit. Unemployment in the state is 12.4 percent and in Fremont is nearly four points higher.

  • More than 20,000 jobs would be permanently lost according to the University of the Pacific forecast for 2010-2014. Many of these jobs are high quality, well-paying jobs.

  • States and localities will lose nearly a billion dollars of tax revenue needed to fund vital services in the ten years after the plant closes.

  • Workers and their families will suffer not only economically but physically as well, according to new research, which shows that plant closings significantly increase the incidence of heart attacks and strokes by 50-100 percent among older workers like the long-time workforce at NUMMI.

  • Californians buy more Toyotas than anywhere else, and by closing the NUMMI plant, Toyota is drastically increasing the distance that the vehicles must be transported to reach the California dealerships, which will lead to more pollution and result in greater degradation of the environment.

If Toyota takes the Commission’s advice and uses NUMMI as the center for developing the eco-friendly California Corolla, it has the potential to lead the auto industry in the development of electric and plug-in technologies. But by leaving California behind, Toyota would also be leaving behind the state that is leading the nation in the development of those green technologies. And by abandoning its workers, the automaker is only drawing even more negative attention to Toyota’s blatant disregard for the well being of those individuals that keep them in business.

As the company seeks to rebuild its commitment to the “Toyota Way,” it needs to seriously reevaluate its recent management decisions. The report concludes

The most immediate, direct, and cost effective jobs program available is to keep NUMMI running. The automaker and California would reap a triple bottom-line benefit: Toyota would restore its image and retain a world-class plant; workers and their families would make it through a dark economic winter; and California would get further down the road to economic growth and a green future.


Download the report in English.

Download the report in Japanese.