Van Nuys Plant May Miss Out on GM Electric Cars

From Staff and Wire Reports

General Motors Corp. reportedly plans to build its Impact electric car at a plant in Lansing, Mich., in what might be another setback for workers at GM’s Van Nuys assembly plant.

United Press International reported late Friday that an unidentified GM spokesman confirmed a story in the weekly trade journal Ward’s Automotive Reports that GM had selected its Reatta Craft Centre in Lansing for low-volume production of the Impact. The official said a formal announcement is expected Monday or Tuesday.

However, Buick spokesman Richard R. Thompson told The Times that he could neither confirm nor deny the Ward’s report. The manager of the Van Nuys plant, Barry E. Herr, could not be reached late Friday.


The Lansing plant currently builds GM’s sporty Buick Reatta, but only 5,587 were produced last year, and GM has said the plant has extra capacity.

Only a month ago, GM President Lloyd Reuss said Van Nuys was a possible site for production of the electric car. Among other things, California is demanding that a portion of the auto makers’ sales in the state include non-polluting vehicles by 1998.

The Van Nuys plant, which employs about 3,200 workers, currently is GM’s sole source for the Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird. Whether the loss of the Impact to the Michigan plant will deal a deathblow to Van Nuys remains to be seen.

GM already has announced plans to shift Camaro and Firebird production from Van Nuys to Canada when new versions of the cars debut within the next two years. The auto maker has not said whether Van Nuys will get other models to build.

GM has said it may convert Van Nuys to a “flex plant” capable of building various models depending on demand, but has made no guarantees.

Jess Pacheco, a United Auto Workers union committeeman who represents the second shift at Van Nuys, said that workers had not yet heard anything about the Impact being built in Michigan. But even if the report is accurate, “it’s not a heartbreaker for us,” he said, because workers are mainly pinning their hopes on Van Nuys becoming a flex plant.