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End of SUV production came 204 days after announcement

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JAMES P. LEUTE
December 23, 2008
— General Motors announced June 3 that it would end sport utility production in Janesville by the end of 2010 at the latest.

The end of 2010 was 942 days and more than 130 paychecks down the road.


But the pessimists—some would say the realists—could see the potholes in the pavement: Sales of the big SUVs were sinking, and GM already had announced plans to cut one of the two SUV production shifts in Janesville.


The end, the pessimists said, would come sooner rather than later for the Janesville plant.


The end came this morning when the last Chevrolet Tahoe rolled off the assembly line in Janesville, just 204 days after GM's June announcement.


So ends—at least for the foreseeable future—a production run that started in Janesville in 1919, when the first Samson tractor came off the line. The first Chevy built in Janesville followed nearly four years later.


Altogether, the cuts of both shifts and the ultimate end of GM production have eliminated nearly 2,200 GM jobs and at least 1,150 jobs at supplier companies in Janesville.


The optimists still have hope for future production at the massive plant on Janesville's south side


In response to GM's cessation announcement in June, Gov. Jim Doyle formed a task force and asked it to try to maintain a GM presence in Janesville.


The group developed a plan to help GM stay in Janesville and eventually presented it to executives in Detroit. A key element is a highly competitive contract agreement that local union members ratified in August.


The task force still is awaiting word from GM execs, who learned Friday that GM would share in a $17.4 billion emergency loan package from the federal government.


The pessimists, however, argue that any chance the Janesville plant had at future production was slim when the coalition formed last summer. It's even slimmer now, they say, as GM's future hangs in the balance.


But if GM is able to survive and the local plant is awarded future production, even the optimists acknowledge that it will be much longer than a matter of days before workers again make their way down General Motors Drive in Janesville.



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