Last Vehicle Rolls of Line at N.J. Plant
Wed Apr 20, 6:36 PM ET
By DAVID PORTER, Associated Press Writer
LINDEN, N.J. - The last automobile manufactured in New Jersey rolled off the assembly line to little fanfare Wednesday, a quiet but momentous end to an industry that once employed thousands of workers and helped fuel the state's economy.
After operating for 68 years, during which it produced nearly 9 million vehicles and manufactured fighter planes during World War II, the General Motors plant in Linden produced its final sport utility vehicle, a white Chevy Blazer.
The GM plant and the Ford plant in nearby Edison, which closed in late February, were the last two auto assembly lines in New Jersey.
At a barbecue in a parking lot across from the plant Wednesday, about three dozen workers flipped burgers, drank beer and soft drinks and swapped stories. Most of the stories revolved around a common theme: leaving co-workers was akin to leaving family.
"This closing is not easy, even though we saw it coming," said Faye Reck, 52, who worked at the plant for more than 26 years. "It's like you're losing your family. You spent most of your life with these people. We're like brothers and sisters."
Declining sales of the Blazer and GMC Jimmy led the company to end production of the two SUVs that had been assembled at the plant since 1993. The plant had cut back from two shifts to one in 2002, causing about 1,000 layoffs. The 1,000 remaining workers learned last year that the plant would be ending production in early 2005.
In its heyday, the plant produced Buicks, Oldsmobiles and Pontiacs. During World War II, it was re-engineered to produce Grumman Wildcat fighter planes before resuming automobile production in 1946. In 1971, it became the first plant outside of Detroit to produce Cadillacs, according to a company release.
Ford operated several plants in New Jersey at various times in the last century, and there were more than 13,000 jobs in auto manufacturing in New Jersey as recently as 1990, said James W. Hughes, dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University.
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Coming from Jersey, this kind of hits close to home. I used to drive by this plant, and the Ford plant in Edison, when I was going to college at Rutgers. Sad to see the last plant close in Jersey.