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GM to hit brakes on its only vehicle built in state

Come September, General Motors Corp. will have made what could be its last car in California.

The bankrupt automaker said Thursday that it would cease production of the Pontiac Vibe, the only vehicle GM still makes in the state, as part of its plan to eliminate the brand completely.

According to GM, the final Vibe will roll off the line at the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. plant in Fremont by the end of August. The factory, also known as NUMMI, is co-owned by GM and Toyota Motor Corp. NUMMI is the only automotive assembly plant in California.

With GM working to radically cut production as part of its restructuring, it remains unclear whether the automaker will continue to build cars in the Golden State.

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GM’s head of North American operations, Troy Clarke, called the decision part of GM’s “long-term viability” and said that “GM and Toyota remain in active discussions regarding potential future production” at the plant.

NUMMI makes the Corolla compact and Tacoma small pickup truck for Toyota. Lance Tomasu, a spokesman for the plant, said it “will focus on building high-quality vehicles and work on lowering its costs while GM and Toyota discuss NUMMI’s future direction,” and indicated that for now the automakers intended to keep the plant “a 50/50 venture.”

As part of its restructuring process, GM announced plans to shutter the Pontiac brand. It has also made deals to sell Hummer, Saturn and Saab, leaving it with just four brands in the U.S. On Tuesday, GM Chief Executive Fritz Henderson said the company did “not see the same potential” for a sale for Pontiac.

Through the first five months of this year, 65,054 Pontiacs were sold in the U.S., down 48% from the same period last year, according to Autodata Corp. Sales of the hatchback Vibe, which starts at $16,735, did not see as steep a drop: 11,395 sold through May, down 35% from a year earlier.

Pontiac has seven vehicles in its current lineup, including the Vibe, and has already announced that it would cease production of the Solstice coupe in July and the G6 in September. Plans for the G8, G5 and G3 have not yet been announced, although production on all three is expected to be halted.

Toyota also makes the Tacoma in Mexico and Japan, while the Corolla is made in 15 other plants worldwide, including one in Canada. Mike Goss, a Toyota spokesman, said that although Toyota is “overcapacitized at the moment,” the termination of the Vibe “has no effect on our production at NUMMI.”

Goss said the plant currently has two shifts producing the Corolla and one making the Tacoma. Through May, Toyota’s U.S. sales fell 39% compared with a year earlier, and the automaker has a new plant in Mississippi that it has never put into service.

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ken.bensinger@latimes.com


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