The factory was originally built to produce Samson tractors. These failed to find buyers, so GM switched it to producing Chevrolet automobiles in 1923. It has produced automobiles and pickup trucks over the years, but today builds full-size SUVs.
Production at the factory was halted during the Great Depression for a short time and there was a famous sit-down strike in 1937. The Janesville Assembly also produced artillery during World War II.
Janesville is one of three plants producing the GMT900 trucks like the Chevrolet Suburban, and began building the next-generation short-wheelbase GMT900 trucks in January 2006. It began producing long wheelbase GMT900 trucks in March and an overtime shift was added to meet demand.
Fuel prices and related slow sales of SUVs have affected the Janesville plant. In April 2008, GM announced that the plant would cut back full-time production to a single shift. Combined with an ongoing employee buy-out program, layoffs were expected to total around 750 jobs in July 2008.
During GM's 2008 Annual shareholder meeting on June 3, 2008, CEO Rick Wagoner announced that the Janesville assembly plant would close by 2010, along with three other GM factories. It could close sooner if the market dictates. The cutbacks announced, along with other changes, were expected to save the North American division $1 billion per year starting in 2010. Combined with previous efforts, GM expects to reduce costs by $15 billion a year in its North America operations.
GM extended its annual summer shutdown an additional two weeks and planned another ten weeks of shutdown for the remainder of 2008 because of excess inventories of SUVs made at the plant.
In June 2008, a study by Steven Deller, a University of Wisconsin-Madison / Extension professor, indicated that the plant's closure could result in a ripple effect for the county. Based on a number of estimates and 2007 employment data, his worst case scenario was the loss of 9,000 jobs and nearly half a billion dollars of labor income in Rock County.
In October 2008, GM announced Janesville Assembly would be largely idled December 23, 2008 when production of SUVs would end. A skeleton crew was scheduled to continue to work at Janesville Assembly through May or June, 2009, to complete the Janesville/Isuzu light truck contract.
- "Can GM's oldest plant survive latest cutbacks?". Detroit News. http://www.detnews.com/2005/autosinsider/0506/14/0auto-215373.htm. Retrieved on 2005.
- "ISUZU: GM-Isuzu Relations". Isuzu. http://www.isuzu.co.jp/world/investor/fact/gm.html. Retrieved on 2008-01-31.
- General Motors. Janesville Assembly fact sheet. Accessed June 27 2008.
- Barry Adams (April 29 2008). "Janesville GM plant cutting 750 jobs". Wisconsin State Journal. http://www.madison.com/wsj/home/local/283632. Retrieved on 29 April 2008.
- GM closing Janesville assembly plant - The Business Journal of Milwaukee:
- General Motors Press Conference - Annual Meeting of Stockholders. Rick Wagoner, General Motors Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. Wilmington, Delaware. June 3, 2008.
- Janesville Gazette. Janesville GM plant targeted for downtime. June 24, 2008.
- Associated Press. Study: Janesville GM closing could result job loss of 9,000 June 21, 2008.
- The Capital Times. GM to close Janesville plant on December 23 2008. October 13, 2008.