FREMONT — The bankruptcy of General Motors left union workers at the GM-Toyota auto factory here to ponder their future on Monday and express cautious optimism that the sprawling New United Motor Inc. plant can survive GM's implosion.
GM's collapse also created plenty of uncertainty in San Joaquin County, where several companies, collectively employing hundreds of workers, supply an array of parts for the NUMMI auto plant in Fremont.
"Of course this worries us," said Mary Elliott, financial secretary and a union official with the United Auto Workers Local 2244, which represents assembly line and other employees at the NUMMI plant. "Anybody who works in the auto industry is worried right now."
General Motors listed $172.81 billion in debt and $82.29 billion in assets in its court filing. GM's bankruptcy on Monday was the fourth-largest in U.S. history and the largest ever filing by an industrial company.
"This bankruptcy is terrible," said Matt Whales, a spokesman for the UAW local in Fremont. "But it's too early to tell right now how this will affect NUMMI."
That same sort of uncertainty was expressed by NUMMI spokesman Lance Tomasu, who said it's unclear how GM's bankruptcy will affect the factory.
GM hopes to emerge from the bankruptcy as a trimmer company with fewer workers, fewer factories, and fewer dealers in its retail network. The court case could last two or three months.
The court proceeding leaves plenty of auto dealers around the country and in the Bay Area wondering whether they would continue as General Motors retail outlets.
"Those approximately 400 dealers who sell fewer than 50 cars per year, and those approximately 250 dealers who sell fewer than 100 cars per year" are among those that GM intends to terminate, according to one of the court papers that GM filed Monday. "Approximately 630 other dealerships are not being continued because they are dealers who, in whole or substantial part, sell brands that are being discontinued."
Parts suppliers also were queasy about their prospects, even vendors that sell parts to the NUMMI factory.
"We wonder what cars will be made at NUMMI," said Jasper Bullock, general manager with Tracy-based Pacific Coast MS Industries Ltd., which makes brake lines and air conditioning ducts for vehicles manufactured at the NUMMI plant. "Will it still be a joint venture? We are watching this closely."
Neither of the NUMMI partners is in top shape. GM filed for bankruptcy to survive. Toyota has just endured a dismal year financially.
"It's all in flux right now," Bullock said. "Our orders from NUMMI are lower than usual."
More murkiness clouded the Fremont factory's future because of a prior decision by GM to cease operations of the Pontiac Vibe. The Vibe will no longer by produced in Fremont after 2010 due to GM's separate move to terminate the Pontiac brand.
Still, workers pointed to some hopeful signs at the NUMMI plant on Monday. At present, shifts are down to four days a week at the NUMMI plant.
But the plant is expected to ramp up to five days a week for the car line starting this month, Elliott said. And truck production should be back to five days a week by August, she added.
"We are still here, we are still floating, and we are still building vehicles," Elliott said.
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