TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (Reuters) — Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda said today the automaker hopes to make a decision soon on whether to shutter a California plant it has shared with General Motors for the past 25 years.
"We are still studying the situation and hope to make a decision soon," Toyoda said in a speech at the Management Briefing Seminars here.
Toyoda also said he was confident the U.S. auto market would recover and that Toyota would "fast track" development of a new, affordable sports car to launch in the next few years.
Toyoda, who took the top job at Toyota in late June, did not provide any details on the plans for a sports car. "I want to see Toyota build cars that are fun and exciting to drive," he said.
GM has produced the Pontiac Vibe while Toyota makes the Corolla and Tacoma at the Fremont, Calif., plant, commonly known by its acronym NUMMI for New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. The plant has operated as a 50-50 partnership by GM and Toyota since 1984.
GM plans to wind down production of the Vibe and eliminate the Pontiac brand. As a result, it opted to abandon its share of the joint venture with Toyota, leaving its stake in the plant with other assets to be liquidated in bankruptcy.
That has left Toyota to negotiate with Motors Liquidation Co., which has assumed management of the facility.
"GM’s decision to withdraw from the joint venture has created some extremely difficult issues for us to resolve," said Toyoda, who was a manager at NUMMI early in his career with Toyota, which was founded by his grandfather.
California lawmakers and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger have appealed to Toyota to save the plant, located near San Francisco, and its 4,500 jobs. It has the only Toyota workers represented by the UAW.
Toyoda said Toyota was not seeking an alliance of the kind that Nissan Motor Co. has with Renault.
"Toyota is not the kind of company that is good at alliances," he said in answer to a question from the audience