The Last Truck | Closing of a GM Plant | A Continuous Lean.

The Last Truck | Closing of a GM Plant

Sep 26th, 2009 | Categories: Made in the USA, Video | by Michael Williams

When GM announced the closing of the Moraine, Ohio assembly plant in June of 2008, Dayton area filmmakers Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar set to work on a documentary about the impact of GM’s decision and the effect on the factory workers and the local community. The resulting film The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant — which aired on HBO earlier in the month — is a moving look at a group of hard working Americans. The Last Truck focuses on the people that worked at Moraine Assembly and does a good job of getting beyond blue collar Midwestern stereotypes. As the Dayton Daily News points out, the Dayton area has a automotive manufacturing history that dates back to World War I when native Charles Kettering invented the electrical ignition.

Update: Get it while the gettin’ is good — HBO took the videos off of YouTube. Look out for the film on DVD soon.

The Last Truck Moraine M II

The Last Truck Moraine GM

The Last Truck GM Moraine III

Further Reading:

The Last Truck television review in The New York Times

Announcement of the Moraine plant closure from the Dayton Daily News

Photos II & III via Habfam

Comments: 14

14 Comments to “The Last Truck | Closing of a GM Plant”

  1. Eric Y.
    on Sep 26th, 2009
    @ 10:01 PM

    I saw this recently on HBO and it was certainly heartbreaking to watch. The sense of camaraderie and pride you could tell each of the workers felt was certainly genuine. More sad is the mismanagement of GM, in general, and the inability for a company with as much talent and resources as they had to overcome mis-guided marketing/trend moves that left it behind the rest of the auto industry.

    Not to say they’re not making some headway back in the right direction, especially with recent news that GM is recalling 2,400 layed off workers. Like a lot of other antiquated policies in the country, the watershed many domestic companies are going through gives me cautious hope that we’re (ever-so slowly) moving in the right direction. It’s just sad to see collateral damage from previous years. If anything, this documentary represents a lot of folks, not just in the auto industry.

    Thanks for sharing the series on YouTube.

  2. Derek
    on Sep 27th, 2009
    @ 4:56 AM

    That was fantastic. Thanks for posting that.

    Another documentary you may be interested in

    http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=TheGreatEscapeMovie&view=videos&query=real+virgil

  3. Jerry
    on Sep 27th, 2009
    @ 2:55 PM

    Thank you. I grew up in Detroit and you painted a picture of pride and hard work that doesn’t get honored enough. Thank you for giving this story to your audience.

  4. Tony
    on Sep 27th, 2009
    @ 8:41 PM

    Thanks for posting this. One of those most touching videos I’ve ever seen.

  5. dave from london
    on Sep 28th, 2009
    @ 6:17 AM

    Yeah, I think Eric Y nails this one with the poor product development, bad market knowledge, it does all catch up with any brand. Know the market, product develop and brand manage.

    has anyone seen what happened to the UK car industry…….same old problem !

    lets take something from these tragedies ( of bad management) and learn and move forward.

  6. Chad
    on Sep 28th, 2009
    @ 6:23 PM

    I must be the only person alive who is sick and tired of the UAW sob-stories. There are countless other UNION jobs that are lost and they don’t get the 60 minutes treatment or the pension bailouts. I do not understand the love affair with the UAW. Americans have subsidized this sloth for decades through higher prices and lower quality for long enough. Let’s face the facts………assembling an automobile on an assembly line isn’t exactly rocket science.

    Americans must become more competitive on price.

  7. Michael Williams
    on Sep 29th, 2009
    @ 12:39 AM

    Hey Chad — Moraine Assembly was actually represented by IUE-CWA (International Union of Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers), probably because the plant was converted from a Fridgider factory in the 1950s. I don’t really think anyone here is arguing that automotive assembly is “rocket science,” rather that GM is a terribly organized company with massive legacy costs that foreign competitors don’t shoulder. So as a result, hard working people suffer.

  8. Derek
    on Sep 29th, 2009
    @ 2:45 AM

    Chad,

    Auto manufacturing and national competitiveness are much more complicated issues than just “who has strong unions and who doesn’t”

    This is about management strategies and the upskilling vs. deskilling of labor.

    Part if this is a story about how Japanese manufacturers got involved in “just in time” production strategies, which is contrasted with Fordist production structures that American manufacturers stuck with. It’s also about how European and Japanese firms always upskilled they labor when they introduced capital improvements, which allowed them to bring labor with them when they moved up in the value chain. On the other hand, American management always pitted labor against capital improvements, which deskilled labor and made it more difficult for them to get the quality labor that Japan and Europe had.

    I can’t go through all of auto manufacturing history in a blog comment, but suffice it to say, I think you’re wrong, and have a terribly simple and non-comparative view of what happened with American auto manufacturing. If you think American auto manufacturing died because of a union, you haven’t done any serious research into this.

  9. Kevin
    on Sep 29th, 2009
    @ 6:30 AM

    I think it died because they were making Trailblazers.

  10. Chad
    on Sep 29th, 2009
    @ 7:11 PM

    I am for markets. That means I believe in free and voluntarily exchange. The UAW proposed an unsustainable contract…..Decades ago……But, management accepted it. They believed that they could stay competitive with other competitors at a higher cost structure. I am in total agreement this lies squarely at management’s feet. Rick Wagoner actually got the union to take over the health-care in 2010 or 2011 ( i can’t remember offhand ) and to its credit, the UAW saw the writing on the wall. So, perhaps I was a smidge unfair to the UAW. Regardless, it was too little, too late. I have not been convinced the UAW deserves or has earned our sympathy. Wow. Management sucked. So they deserve to have THEIR pensions and health-care bailed out while all the other unions suffer the discipline of the market like everybody else? Why are they soooooo special?

    American automobile manufacturing hasn’t died. Kia, Hyundai, BMW, Toyota, Honda………………..all manufacture cars in the U.S. and uh, mostly non union………..

    The fact of the matter is………….the big 3 were playing chicken with the debt markets forever…….constantly rolling over debt……….once they froze over, it was lights out.

    There is a serious problem with institutional “traditions” or “protocol”/”group-think” that makes it virtually impossible to challenge and re-think whatever the status quo is. Part of that is our success. Why change it if it has worked? Problem is you never know you’re heading towards the waterfall until you’re over it.

    Bob Lutz was a genius. Rick Wagoner, probably the best CEO GM has had in the last 30 years – china? on fucking fire – Wagoner executed that. Even the UAW knew the key to stopping the hemorrhaging was to take on some of the burden itself. I give em credit. They saw the change. Unfortunately for them, and for circumstances beyond their control, everything crashed around them. Such is life and such is business.

    I have yet to be convinced why the UAW deserves special treatment. I guess I should feel glad that at least some working stiffs actually have some political clout to get their asses saved……..for the most part, but that comes from my wallet, and yours. Which, I believe is wrong.

  11. Ben
    on Oct 1st, 2009
    @ 11:37 AM

    For those of you that have HBO, it’s currently on HBO OnDemand if you haven’t seen it yet.

  12. CE
    on Oct 2nd, 2009
    @ 4:23 PM

    I’d be interested to see it. Unfortunately I don’t have HBO. My Dad worked at GM for 43 years as an engineer. One employer his whole life. Back then ‘employment for life’ was not just associated with Japanese car companies as it is now — it was part of the way GM & employees did business. And then they helped you and your family in retirement by providing a pension and healthcare. It was a two-sided commitment between employer & employee.

    No doubt times have changed.

    Now this commitment is known as ‘massive legacy costs.’ And, to be sure, these costs have contributed to GM’s loss of competitiveness (but see above comments for discussions of several other contributing factors). But when you put it like that (almost pejoratively) — that GM has “massive legacy costs that foreign competitors don’t shoulder … [and] as a result, hard working people suffer” — you obscure the fact that those costs are going to real live people: loyal former employees and their families, both blue & white collar. People who worked hard their whole lives for GM’s success and their own. Those costs are fulfilling the promise they received from GM to live out their retirement years not as paupers, but with a little dignity.

    It will be interesting to see how the Japanese deal with the inevitable realities of an aging workforce, layoffs (rather than employment for life), younger generations who love to spend spend spend (unlike their parents, who worked and saved), and increasing numbers of retirees who will need to be cared for in a humane way. My understanding is that Japan’s zero population growth will be catching up with them in the not-too-distant future. Maybe our car companies & system of corporate-provided pensions & healthcare for retirees (a/k/a “massive legacy costs”) let us down. We’ll see if Japan & its auto industry can handle these issues with any more business acumen, if not a little more dignity, style and grace, then we have so far. I hope so because maybe we’ll all learn something.

  13. Kenneth Tangnes
    on Oct 6th, 2009
    @ 11:00 AM

    Wow! That was depressing. C’mon America, cheer up! Do what you do best – be innovative, capable, enduring, gritty – kick some ass! It doesn’t quite become you to be so down and beaten…

    Europe is with you!

    Kind Regards

    Kenneth, Oslo, Norway

  14. Judy See
    on Jan 11th, 2010
    @ 3:54 PM

    When will it be in DVD? I live in Dayton,Oh I really would like to get it.