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NUMMI: this american life

vdiv

Chief Grump
Jan 20, 2015
674
842
Reston, VA
The Model S is the second vehicle of mine that was made at that factory. The first one was a new '99 Toyota Tacoma V6 SR5 Prerunner Extended Cab. It looked really cool with wider fender flares and running boards, but it became a rather big disappointment. It was meant to be a good all around vehicle for moving, commuting, traveling, going mountain-biking and showboarding. It did all these things rather poorly. The truck bed was shallow, narrow, and short, and didn't hold much. The rear jump seats were torturous for even a 10-minute run. The fuel economy was about 19 mpg, lousy for commuting and traveling. With a small fuel tank the highway range was about 240 miles, about the same as my 70D. The Offroad suspension and A/T tires made it unstable on the highway and a pain to keep it in the lane. Little did it help that the rear axle was not aligned at the factory and it took multiple trips to service at multiple dealerships to finally address it. The Taco's bed had space for the mountain bikes and showboards, but the rear wheel drive with an open differential (really a one wheel drive, the one that slips) made the truck sketchy on snow and dirt roads. It did not have ABS, traction control, nor even electronic brake distribution, which meant that the rear drum brakes were there for mostly symbolic reasons and maybe for parking. After getting in a couple of accidents and really losing my confidence in the safety of the Taco I traded it in.
 

hockeythug

Active Member
Jun 3, 2013
1,979
1,130
Minnesota
I caught the end of this driving home last week. They had a update at the end of the version that aired last week that Tesla is now operating in the factory since this originally aired in 2010.

Here is that slightly updated version. I think the beginning and ending are the only things different.

http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/561/nummi-2015
 
Last edited:

mdevp

Member
Sep 30, 2014
538
91
nj
Does the podcast talk about how toward the end of the NUMMI plant workers tried to sabotage vehicles? I've heard they put used soft drink bottles and cans in car doors for example. I've always wondered if this was actually true or not. Sorry didn't have an hour to go through the entire cast.
 
Does the podcast talk about how toward the end of the NUMMI plant workers tried to sabotage vehicles? I've heard they put used soft drink bottles and cans in car doors for example. I've always wondered if this was actually true or not. Sorry didn't have an hour to go through the entire cast.




From from what they said the Fremont GM plant was one of the worst. They gave examples of workers routinely sabotaging cars. They fired all the workers and rehired a lot of them for this joint venture with Toyota (NUMMI). The managers were flown to Japan to learn the Toyota way. It completely changed their approach to car building and vastly improved worker morale. (They interviewed a few former employees). The employees actually enjoyed going to work whereas before they likened it to a prison. Pretty amazing turnaround.
 
Does the podcast talk about how toward the end of the NUMMI plant workers tried to sabotage vehicles? I've heard they put used soft drink bottles and cans in car doors for example. I've always wondered if this was actually true or not. Sorry didn't have an hour to go through the entire cast.

That behavior has been credited to the plant's former GM workers, not NUMMI.
 

anticitizen13.7

Not posting at TMC after 9/17/2018
Dec 22, 2012
3,638
5,870
United States
Does the podcast talk about how toward the end of the NUMMI plant workers tried to sabotage vehicles? I've heard they put used soft drink bottles and cans in car doors for example. I've always wondered if this was actually true or not. Sorry didn't have an hour to go through the entire cast.

I think that was prior to the plant becoming NUMMI. Once Toyota joined the management of the plant, the workers were treated better and trained in the Toyota way, which resulted in a dramatic fall in workplace issues.

I think I remember ex-workers from the GM days saying that prior to Toyota, the workers were often drunk, stoned, or having sex during work hours. Work was so carelessly done that defective product piled up in storage lots to await remediation. Honestly it sounded like an extreme version of Mad Men, with dozens of Don Drapers messing up everything.
 
I think that was prior to the plant becoming NUMMI. Once Toyota joined the management of the plant, the workers were treated better and trained in the Toyota way, which resulted in a dramatic fall in workplace issues.

I think I remember ex-workers from the GM days saying that prior to Toyota, the workers were often drunk, stoned, or having sex during work hours. Work was so carelessly done that defective product piled up in storage lots to await remediation. Honestly it sounded like an extreme version of Mad Men, with dozens of Don Drapers messing up everything.
Wow, did not know about that. One time I did read about a Detroit local news team catching Chrysler (i think?) workers on lunch break drinking and smoking weed then returning to work. They were suspended but then reinstated with back pay. Thanks for all the info from all the posts. Very interesting.
 

Canuck

Well-Known Member
Nov 30, 2013
6,125
5,780
South Surrey, BC
Great story. For the pre-NUMMI era, it's a good poster child for me to use against my few pro-union friends... But I digress... :p


Jeff

Maybe your few pro-union friends understand that unions came about during the industrial revolution when workers united for the purpose of improving the conditions of their employment. There were employment conditions at that time I don't think any reasonable person would support, such as child labour, environmental conditions that caused illness and death, excessive hours without overtime pay, and the list goes on and on. Of course, without unions those changes would have come about, but unions certainly accelerated the process, improving countless people’s lives in the process. So perhaps they have a point in being pro-union? I know, many unions now have become very powerful and often abuse that power but is that a reason to be anti-union or is it more an abuse of power issue?

I see it as similar to our political system. The system itself is not that bad, but the abuse of that system, especially by lobbying and special interest groups, is the problem. Again, because certain groups become too powerful and abuse that power for their own selfish ends.
 
My wife worked at the NUMMI plant, first as a team member, and then as a team leader, and I will state that in that environment, she and all of the NUMMI team members I met enjoyed working there. Having toured the Detroit auto factories in the late 60's and early 70's, I remember that come hell or high water, I would NEVER let myself work in that environment. Workers looked bored, burned out, spaced out, or angry, and I clearly remember those stares to this day. Moving forward to the mid '90's, and long before my wife started working there, I went on a tour of the NUMMI plant, as part of an LMR program. What a difference. Any and all employees were encouraged to stop the line if they found a problem with a vehicle, so it could be corrected. My wife even received benefits and recognition for that, as well as proposing solutions to improve the process.
Interviewing for getting a job there was also a trip. She had to go one day for a written test, and another day to 'assemble' certain parts together in a training room. She was graded on not only the number completed, but also on properly completed ones. My wife told me about something she experienced during the written test. The instructor stated at the beginning of the test, each section would be timed. Upon the announcement that time had expired, applicants should immediately stop and put their pencils down on the desk top. A few sections later, time expired, but one applicant didn't stop or put their pencil down. The instructor said to the entire group that upon it happening again the 'violator' would be dismissed. My wife said that as the instructor put it, if you don't follow these simple instructions in a classroom, why would NUMMI expect you to follow assembly instructions on the factory floor. I thought that was a pretty good point.
When GM declared bankruptcy and walked away from the joint venture with Toyota, that left Toyota holding the bag. The nails were in the coffin, and the UAW and Toyota worked out, as best they could, the shutdown of the factory. Toyota offered certain items for sale to NUMMI employees only, and ultimately, I participated in the Hilco auction in Sept of their final year of operation, as well as a 'last chance' auction in Dec of that year for the last items NUMMI had kept going until Tesla took over the plant in January. Toyota offered incentives to NUMMI employees to be there every day until the plant ceased operations. Some of the NUMMI employees were offered jobs by Tesla. My wife said the NUMMI plant job was the best place she has ever worked.

Picking up the MS at the factory was the first time she had been back in about 7 years.

Scotty
 
Maybe your few pro-union friends understand that unions came about during the industrial revolution when workers united for the purpose of improving the conditions of their employment. There were employment conditions at that time I don't think any reasonable person would support, such as child labour, environmental conditions that caused illness and death, excessive hours without overtime pay, and the list goes on and on. Of course, without unions those changes would have come about, but unions certainly accelerated the process, improving countless people’s lives in the process. So perhaps they have a point in being pro-union? I know, many unions now have become very powerful and often abuse that power but is that a reason to be anti-union or is it more an abuse of power issue?

I see it as similar to our political system. The system itself is not that bad, but the abuse of that system, especially by lobbying and special interest groups, is the problem. Again, because certain groups become too powerful and abuse that power for their own selfish ends.

I grew up in union country, aircraft manufacturing union country to be exact (Wichita KS), so I'll just reserve the right to not directly reply to your post other than to say that I am fully aware of how labor unions came to be, why, and what went wrong.

Jeff
 
My wife worked at the NUMMI plant, first as a team member, and then as a team leader, and I will state that in that environment, she and all of the NUMMI team members I met enjoyed working there. Having toured the Detroit auto factories in the late 60's and early 70's, I remember that come hell or high water, I would NEVER let myself work in that environment. Workers looked bored, burned out, spaced out, or angry, and I clearly remember those stares to this day. Moving forward to the mid '90's, and long before my wife started working there, I went on a tour of the NUMMI plant, as part of an LMR program. What a difference. Any and all employees were encouraged to stop the line if they found a problem with a vehicle, so it could be corrected. My wife even received benefits and recognition for that, as well as proposing solutions to improve the process.
Interviewing for getting a job there was also a trip. She had to go one day for a written test, and another day to 'assemble' certain parts together in a training room. She was graded on not only the number completed, but also on properly completed ones. My wife told me about something she experienced during the written test. The instructor stated at the beginning of the test, each section would be timed. Upon the announcement that time had expired, applicants should immediately stop and put their pencils down on the desk top. A few sections later, time expired, but one applicant didn't stop or put their pencil down. The instructor said to the entire group that upon it happening again the 'violator' would be dismissed. My wife said that as the instructor put it, if you don't follow these simple instructions in a classroom, why would NUMMI expect you to follow assembly instructions on the factory floor. I thought that was a pretty good point.
When GM declared bankruptcy and walked away from the joint venture with Toyota, that left Toyota holding the bag. The nails were in the coffin, and the UAW and Toyota worked out, as best they could, the shutdown of the factory. Toyota offered certain items for sale to NUMMI employees only, and ultimately, I participated in the Hilco auction in Sept of their final year of operation, as well as a 'last chance' auction in Dec of that year for the last items NUMMI had kept going until Tesla took over the plant in January. Toyota offered incentives to NUMMI employees to be there every day until the plant ceased operations. Some of the NUMMI employees were offered jobs by Tesla. My wife said the NUMMI plant job was the best place she has ever worked.

Picking up the MS at the factory was the first time she had been back in about 7 years.

Scotty


Thank you for the info. It was interesting to me.
 

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