General Motors didn't leave the 3,200 employees at the Fairfax assembly plant in Kansas City, Kan., in limbo when it decided to move the plant's longtime product, the Pontiac Grand Prix, to Oshawa, Ontario.
The automaker already had killed Fairfax's other product, the Oldsmobile Intrigue.
GM let officials of UAW Local 31 know that the plant would get the next Chevrolet Malibu and possibly the Pontiac Grand Am. Last October, GM made it official, announcing that the Malibu - a crucial product in GM's effort to make its cars more appealing - would be built at Fairfax. The Grand Am went to the Orion Township, Mich., plant.
The quick allocation of product contrasted with the drawn-out dramas at some other plants.
It was partly a reward for Fairfax's performance: The Harbour Report, North America 2001 rated Fairfax's assembly speed at 24 labor hours per vehicle, making it fifth among GM's 15 North American car plants and ninth among all plants making mid-sized cars.
Fairfax had been using the team concept that is part of GM's global manufacturing system. Richard Shoemaker, UAW vice president in charge of the GM unit, says the union has cooperated in making Fairfax competitive.
"The relationship between the UAW and GM has improved noticeably, and that is at the heart of the success that we've enjoyed," Shoemaker says.
After the last 2003 Grand Prix rolled off the line in Fairfax in February, GM began a $500 million retooling. Production workers began returning to the plant in June. GM will launch the 2004 Malibu this month, followed by the Malibu Maxx, an extended-wheelbase variant, in December.