On Oct. 13, G.M. announced that its 90-year-old plant there, the company’s oldest factory in the United States, would build its last S.U.V. just before the Christmas holidays.
Just a year ago, the Janesville plant was churning out 20,000 Suburbans, Yukons and Tahoes each month. As the assembly lines wind down, the plant is now producing less than 100 S.U.V.’s a day.
Only 1,200 employees remain from a work force that once numbered 5,000, and the end is drawing near.
The workers there are stunned by the plant’s sudden demise. After building 3.76 million S.U.V.’s over the last 18 years, Janesville is headed for the automotive scrap heap.
“They told us it would never end, that it was a recession-proof vehicle and we’d never be able to build enough of them,” said Daryl Klemp, who was hired in 1995, when sales of S.U.V.’s were booming. He has been laid off since August, and he spends his days on his farm wondering how it all went wrong.
“We thought we were the luckiest auto workers in the world,” he said. “We had the product that everybody wanted, and all of a sudden, poof.”