Hummer's End Leaves Indiana Workers In Limbo The roots of car manufacturing run deep in northern Indiana. AM General produced the Hummer H2 for General Motors for the past eight years at a plant in Mishawaka. Even though they're still building vehicles for the military, the end of Hummer production could threaten their jobs.
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Hummer's End Leaves Indiana Workers In Limbo

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Hummer's End Leaves Indiana Workers In Limbo

Hummer's End Leaves Indiana Workers In Limbo

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

Unless a last-minute buyer swoops in, it's likely the Hummer brand will become a thing of the past. When its deal with a Chinese company collapsed, General Motors announced yesterday that it will no longer produce Hummers. And that was most unwelcome in the northern Indiana town that houses one of two plants where Hummers are made.

But Chicago Public Radio's Michael Puente says workers there aren't waving the white flag just yet.

MICHAEL PUENTE: Hummer's H2 is produced here in Mishawaka, two hours east of Chicago, not by GM, but by a company called AM General. Well, at least it was. When sales of the gas-guzzling vehicle plummeted a few years ago, production suffered and no H2s have rolled off the assembly line for a year.

Instead, AM General's 1,500 workers continue building other vehicles for the military and federal government. That keeps the massive plant going.

Jay Wiand retired from this plant a few years ago after working on the assembly line for 30 years. He's not particularly optimistic about the plant's future, though.

Mr. JAY WIAND: Oh yeah, I mean, there's - there will be people going to get laid off. There's no doubt about that.

PUENTE: A huge, framed aerial photo of the plant sits outside Jeffrey Rea's City Hall office. He's the mayor here and served as the city's economic development director when GM brought Hummer to AM General eight years ago. The importance of the Hummer brand in Mishawaka and the region certainly isn't lost on him.

Mayor JEFFREY REA (Mishawaka, Indiana): This is one of our largest employers, one of our largest taxpayers, one of our largest utility customers. Certainly, what happens out there has an impact on our community.

PUENTE: Rea says even if the deal with the Chinese buyer had gone through, there was no guarantee the H2 will continue to be built in Mishawaka. But he says since the plant is still relatively new, other businesses may want to take advantage of its workforce. AM General is set to begin manufacturing a handicap accessible taxicab that will keep this plant, well, humming for a little while longer.

Mayor REA: This is a great workforce, and they build things. They build them well. So we think it certainly is a viable opportunity, potentially, for other car manufactures to want to do something here.

PUENTE: The roots of car manufacturing run deep in northern Indiana. Studebaker called neighboring South Bend home for more than 100 years. When the plant closed down in 1963, AM General moved into some of Studebaker's old facilities to build its own vehicles.

Studebaker's closure forced South Bend to look into other areas for economic development, like retail and the sprawling University of Notre Dame, but some say this area still hasn't fully recovered from the loss of Studebaker nearly a half-century ago.

Mishawaka resident Corey Jensen isn't sure just how quickly his city will recover if no Hummers are made.

Mr. COREY JENSEN: It's terrible for the economy. It hurts everything. I mean, middle-class people make the world go round, and when you take away middle-class workers, the world falls apart like it has.

PUENTE: The Army recently announced that this may be the last year it uses the Humvee, the military model the H2 was based on. GM's plant near Shreveport, Louisiana suspended production of Hummers last month. GM says it will entertain any viable offer for Hummer even as the company winds down operations.

Meanwhile, workers here will continue to build whatever vehicles come down the assembly line as they hope for another potential buyer for GM's Hummer brand.

For NPR News, I'm Michael Puente in Mishawaka, Indiana.

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