Toyota has never closed a U.S. assembly plant, but the suddenly struggling Japanese automaker has said that it would shudder the NUMMI factory in California, the only auto plant in the state, by next March. The upcoming closure isn't a big surprise since General Motors was allowed to bow out of its half of the joint venture project with Toyota during bankruptcy, giving Toyota full responsibility for the California plant. And since the Pontiac Vibe is no longer being made at the facility, capacity has dropped to a reported 60%, making the facility unprofitable at a time when Toyota is losing money.

The closure of the plant means, of course, that its 5,300 employees will soon be without a job. To protest the closure of NUMMI, an estimated 1,000 workers turned out to demonstrate in front of the facility last week. The union-organized workers are in a tough position, too, since their UAW contract expired last week. The contract was indefinitely extended, but either party can cancel it with five days notice. And with unemployment at 11% in California, finding a new job will be no easy task.

[Source: The Detroit Bureau | Image: Justin Sullivan/Getty]