Willow Run After the War

When the need for B-24s was over, the Willow Run Plant was run by Kaiser until 1953. It was then sold to General Motors. The facility lent itself to large scale production and additional capacity was added over time, resulting in a five million square foot plant. The Chevrolet Corvair was made there, as was the Chevy II and the Caprice.

The largest use of the facility was for producing transmissions. At the height of operations in the 1970s, 14,000 people worked at Willow Run. Even as America was shutting down, as late as 2005 there were 4,000 workers making four different models of transmissions.

It was the governmental takeover of General Motors that finished off Willow Run. In the restructuring that occurred after the nationalization of GM, the government redirected the resources to Mexican factories. The Willow Run facility will turn out the lights in December of 2010, adding over a thousand workers to the unemployment rolls of Ypsilanti, Michigan. We won’t have to think about the Willow Run facility standing empty though, the government’s plan is to tear it down.

The government automobile manufacturer that is using the old GM logo? A lot of the production is out of the Silao General Motors truck and SUV assembly plant in Mexico. The facility is doing well. They make Chevrolet and GMC Pickups, the Cadillac Escalade EXT and the Chevrolet Avalanche. Here’s one of the Silao production lines making pickups. It only made sense to the government, the average wage in Silao is $2.80 (US) per hour. No one asked why we would want to keep manufacturing jobs in the country, that was the old kind of thinking, the way they used to think in America.

We need not stride resolutely towards catastrophe, merely because those are the marching orders.
—-Noam Chomsky