Janesville GM Assembly Plant
Janesville Assembly Plant is a former automobile factory owned by General Motors located in Janesville, Wisconsin. Opened in 1919, it was the oldest operating GM plant when it was largely idled in December 2008, and ceased all remaining production in April 2009.
In 1918, the Samson Tractor division of General Motors was formed from the merger of Samson Tractor of California and the Janesville Machine Company, a farm implement manufacturer. A Samson Tractor Division plant employing 3,000 workers was opened in Janesville in 1919, with the first tractor produced on May 1, 1919. A farm depression that started in 1920 forced Samson to curtail production and lay off more than 1,000 workers. Samson eventually went bankrupt. Although General Motors wanted to abandon the Janesville plant, its general manager, Joseph A. Craig, convinced the company to stay, and in 1920 GM transferred its truck production from Flint, Michigan to the Janesville plant.
Chevrolet began producing automobiles at the plant in 1923. In the same year, an adjacent Fisher Body plant began construction. Production at the factory was halted during the Great Depression for about a year. In 1937 union organizers led a sit-down strike, part of a nationwide series of strikes at GM, which quickly resulted in a national contract. During World War II, the Janesville plants were taken over by General Motors' Oldsmobile Division, and produced artillery.
Production of automobiles resumed following the war. In 1953, a second shift was added to both the Chevrolet and the Fisher Body factories. In April 1967, the 100 millionth GM vehicle was produced at the Chevrolet plant. Two years later the Chevrolet and Fisher Body factories joined to form the General Motors Assembly Division. Peak production at the Janesville Assembly occurred in 1977, when there were 7,100 employees, and 274,286 cars and 114,681 trucks were produced.
In the 1980s General Motors moved large car production from Janesville and started making subcompact J-cars, such as the Chevrolet Cavalier. In 1987 the company moved Janesville's pickup line to the Fort Wayne, Indiana assembly plant. Local efforts resulted in GM moving medium-duty truck and full-size sport-utility production from plants in Michigan to Janesville. By 1992 it was the only GM plant manufacturing large SUVs. In 2002 GM returned Janesville's medium-duty truck production to Flint, Michigan.
Most recently the Janesville Assembly built full-size SUVs. It was one of three plants producing the GMT900 trucks, such as the Chevrolet Suburban. It began building the next-generation short-wheelbase GMT900 trucks in January 2006 and the long-wheelbase GMT900 trucks in March of that year and an overtime shift was added to meet demand. From 1994 until 2009, the plant also produced medium-duty trucks for Isuzu under its partnership with GM.
In 2006, the Janesville GM Assembly plant achieved a milestone of producing more than 500,000 full-size sport utility vehicles with E85 FlexFuel capable engines. The Janesville employees were recognized in a ceremony at the plant that included Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle (D).
In 2007, discussion of greenhouse gas fuel emissions regulations sparked a dialogue about the future of the Janesville GM plant. That same year United Auto Workers Local 95 participated in a strike at the facility.
In 2008, fuel prices, the related slow sales of SUVs, and the economy resulted in GM cutting back full-time production at the Janesville plant to a single shift. Combined with an ongoing employee buy-out program, layoffs totaled around 750 jobs in July 2008. During GM's annual shareholder meeting on June 3, 2008, CEO Rick Wagoner announced that the Janesville assembly plant would close by 2010, along with three other GM factories, and could close sooner if the market dictated. The cutbacks announced, along with other changes, were expected to save the North American division $1 billion per year starting in 2010. GM extended its annual summer shutdown an additional two weeks and planned another ten weeks of shutdown for the remainder of 2008 because of excess inventories of SUVs made at the plant.
|"Last day at GM" Janesville Gazette photos from December 23, 2008|
In October 2008, GM announced that the production of SUVs at the Janesville Assembly would end December 23, 2008. On that day workers gathered at a ceremony with a banner reading "Last Vehicle off the Janesville Assembly Line". The last GM vehicle produced, a Chevrolet Tahoe, was donated to the United Way of North Rock County, which raffled the vehicle off.
57 production employees continued assembly work at the Janesville Assembly until April 2009, completing the GM/Isuzu light truck partnership and then an additional 40 to 50 "skilled trade employees" worked to decommission the plant.
- General Motors. Janesville Assembly fact sheet. Accessed June 27, 2008.
- James P. Leute. "Thursday is last day of production as Isuzu line comes to end", Janesville Gazette, April 21, 2009.
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- General Motors Press Conference - Annual Meeting of Stockholders. Rick Wagoner, General Motors Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. Wilmington, Delaware. June 3, 2008.
- Janesville Gazette. Janesville GM plant targeted for downtime. June 24, 2008.
- The Capital Times. GM to close Janesville plant on December 23 2008. October 13, 2008.
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- "Last day at GM". The Janesville Gazette, December 23, 2008.
- Jim Leute and Stacy Vogel. "Retired GM worker wins the last Tahoe off the line", Janesville Gazette, February 25, 2009. Retrieved September 16, 2013.
- The Janesville Gazette. GM Thursday is last day of production as Isuzu line comes to end. April 21, 2009.
- GM has long, rich history in Janesville
- Through the years: Chronicling the history of GM in Janesville
- General Motors history in black and white