Toyota Recall Affects GM's Pontiac Vibe: Part II

August 30, 2010

Yesterday we learned that a recent recall of 1.1 million Toyota Matrix and Corolla models will also affect 160,000 Pontiac Vibes. The recall is related to stalling and rough shifting. However the underlying story is why a Pontiac model is involved in a Toyota recall. The answer to this mystery concerns the relationship between Toyota and General Motors and the fact that the Pontiac Vibe is the result of these two automotive companies coming together in a joint venture where each was trying to learn and benefit from the other.

The joint venture with GM and Toyota began in 1984. They took over an old General Motors assembly plant in Fremont, CA and created a new company called New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc. (NUMMI). They not only manufactured vehicles that were sold under both brand names, but in the case of the Pontiac Vibe, worked together to build a vehicle together.

Times Change
The joint venture at NUMMI worked well for years. GM produced a number of models there, including the Chevy Nova from 1984-88, the Geo Prizm from 1989-97, and the Chevrolet Prizm from 1998-02. In 1988 Toyota began making the Corolla at the NUMMI plant. It also manufactured the Hilux (predecessor to the Tacoma) from 1991-95, and in 1995 it added the Tacoma pickup truck.

The economic downturn began to have a serious impact on NUMMI in 2009 when GM announced that it would cease production of all Pontiac models by 2010. The last Pontiac Vibe left the NUMMI plant a year ago. It was also in 2009 that GM announced it was pulling out of its joint venture at NUMMI. Earlier this year, Toyota announced it was also winding down operations at the NUMMI plant. The last vehicle rolled off the assembly line on April 1, 2010.

Hope Springs Eternal
On May 20, 2010, it was announced that Tesla Motors will join with Toyota at the NUMMI plant to develop electric vehicles. Specifically, Toyota will invest 50 million dollars in Tesla, and Tesla will acquire the NUMMI plant prior to beginning production in 2012. It’s expected that this new joint venture will result in 1,000 workers initially being hired back to produce up to 20,000 vehicles a year.

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