GM to shut down facility early

Car buyers, dealers affected
JANESVILLE, Wis. GM announced that they will accelerate plans to shutter the SUV plant.

Over the summer, GM said it would close the plant in 2010, but because of slumping SUV sales, they will reportedly shut down the facility earlier -- on December 23.

The automaker is expected to make a formal announcement about the plant shutdown Friday morning.

The closure will affect about 1,200 workers. General Motors also announced it will close a stamping plant near Grand Rapids, Michigan, by the end of next year. Fourteen hundred workers there will lose their jobs.

The GM assembly plant opened in 1919. Now it appears most of its production will end in December, and the plant will close next year.

"I never thought it would come to this when I worked there for many years down here. But it has," said Nathan Johnston, GM retiree.

The plant had supplied thousands of jobs over the years and supported much of the local businesses.

"General Motors has been kind of the backbone for the community, and there's a lot of satellite industries that have come to town since. With GM folding up, is it going to happen to all the other industries? Is this going to be to become another Flint, Michigan?" said Tim Murphy, Janesville resident.

"There's not only GM to think about, there's all the businesses that are associated with GM down here that are going to separate, too, from auto parts to other manufacturing. There's just an enormous impact," said Cliff Frederiksen, Janesville resident.

The union Local 95 president says, "Although this news was somewhat expected, we no doubt are very concerned about the current state of the auto industry."

"I'm not happy about it. I expected it. I knew it was coming. I wish there was something I could do about it," said Dan Knopes, GM employee.

"We expected it. It's not a real surprise. We did expect this to happen. And at least they're working this out to right before Christmas. We're going to get our holiday pay. So we're not getting -- it's not that bad a deal because we all did expect it," said Carlton Wichser, GM employee.

Car buyers, dealers affected

Henry Jackson has four kids, wants a bigger car and is about to buy a Chevy SUV.

"Everybody's in crunch time, so if you can get a deal financially and it serves the purpose, it can be done," he said.

Unfortunately for GM and the other automakers, there aren't as many Henry Jacksons out there. SUV sales continue to slide.

And the hard times in the plant can also extend to the showroom floor, though higher volume dealers say they are weathering the storm.

"We're down a little bit. But we have repeat and referral business. Consequently, we're doing more than the mainstream dealers," said John Damone, Rizza Chevrolet general manager.

There is a burp of optimism with Monday's market rebound, but what might tomorrow bring?

Car buyers aren't basing their decisions on a volatile market. They're looking at something much more obvious - gas prices. Miles per gallon is driving what leaves the showroom.

"With gas prices coming down, it's a plus, not an end all, but it's a start," said one potential buyer.

Even if they continue to fall, the drop comes too late for GM in Janesville.

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