By TOM KRISHER
The Associated Press
DETROIT - The Vibe is the latest Pontiac model to be officially killed by General Motors Corp. as the automaker moves to phase out the storied brand sometime next year.
GM said Thursday that it will stop making the small hatchback in August at a factory it jointly runs with Toyota Motor Corp. in Fremont, Calif.
The Detroit automaker, as part of its government-funded restructuring in bankruptcy protection, is shedding Pontiac, Hummer, Saab and Saturn as it tries to shrink itself to match a smaller market share and get more mileage out of its advertising dollars.
The Vibe, the same car as the Toyota Matrix, was not a huge seller for GM. Through May, the company sold only 11,395 Vibes, down 35 percent from the same period last year.
GM said in a statement that it is talking with Toyota about a replacement vehicle for the Fremont factory, known as New United Motor Manufacturing Inc., or NUMMI. The plant also makes the Toyota Corolla compact car and the Tacoma small pickup truck.
No Prius there
Toyota spokesman Mike Goss denied reports that Toyota would build the Prius, the nation's top-selling gas-electric hybrid, at the plant.
The Japanese automaker, he said, has built a new factory in Blue Springs to assemble the Prius, but is not equipping the plant for production until auto sales recover.
"We haven't changed our minds. We still plan to build the Prius in Mississippi when the market dictates," Goss said. "NUMMI is not under consideration for that. General Motors and Toyota continue to talk about the future of NUMMI, and we just don't know what the result of that is going to be."
Toyota will continue to build the Corolla and Tacoma at NUMMI, Goss said.
NUMMI was set up as a joint venture in 1984. One of its purposes was to have American workers learn Toyota's production methods.
It has been the topic of numerous labor relations studies, and the company claims teamwork and safety among its "core values."
Despite the end of the Vibe, GM is not pulling out of the joint venture with Toyota, and the companies are discussing other GM products that could be built at the factory, Pontiac spokesman Jim Hopson said.
"It's certainly been a very lucrative partnership for us for the last 25 years," he said.