FREMONT — Toyota Motor Corp. has decided it will dissolve its stake in the NUMMI auto factory it operated here with General Motors Corp., leaving union officials at the plant dismayed and disappointed.
The Japanese car maker will begin negotiations next week about the liquidation of the venture and the timing of a shutdown of the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. factory in Fremont, according to at least three published reports.
"People are worried about their jobs," said Sergio Santos, president of United Auto Workers Local 2244, which represents UAW members at NUMMI. "Nobody can afford to lose their job fight now."
About 4,700 people work at the NUMMI plant. GM and Toyota resurrected the plant after GM had permanently closed it in 1982.
"I'm very disappointed," said Matt Wales, a office staffer for the UAW in Fremont. "We are still hopeful. But it looks like me and 4,500 other people are going have to look for a job."
The NUMMI venture began production in December 1984 when a Chevrolet Nova rolled off the assembly line.
"There is a likelihood we would not buy the rest of it," said Yoshimi Inaba, recently appointed CEO of Toyota Motors North America, said Thursday in Michigan. "I don't want to use the word liquidate, but we are looking at the viability of NUMMI, so we may have to make a painful decision."
Toyota spokesman Mike Goss would not confirm that Toyota has decided to exit the venture. Goss said Toyota will begin negotiations with GM about the plant. Toyota is conducting an "extensive review" of its production needs, Goss said.
NUMMI makes the Pontiac Vibe station wagon, Toyota Corolla compact car, and Tacoma pickup truck.
Prospects for NUMMI darkened in recent weeks, starting in mid-June when GM first said it would cease making the Pontiac brand. GM subsequently announced, as part of the conclusion of GM's bankruptcy filing, that it was pulling out of the NUMMI joint venture.
That prompted Toyota to reveal that it was considering pulling out of the joint venture as well. Like other auto makers, Toyota has suffered a nose-dive in its North American vehicle sales. The retail plunge has forced Toyota into an exhaustive review of all of its manufacturing options in the United States market.
Toyota had previously said it would make a decision on the NUMMI factory by the end of July.
California lawmakers, once they had received reports that the plant could close, scurried to craft legislation to create financial incentives for Toyota to keep NUMMI operating.
California is deemed to be a high-cost state for manufacturing. During the 12 months that ended in June, California lost 124,600 manufacturing jobs. The East Bay lost 5,600 manufacturing jobs during the same one-year period.
The Associated Press and the Detroit Free Press contributed to this report.