AKA: General Motors Corporation (GM), Manufacturing Facility, South Gate, Los Angeles, CA

Structure Type: built works - industrial buildings - factories

Designers: Kahn, Albert, Associates, Architects (firm); Albert Kahn (architect)

Dates: constructed 1935

2700 Tweedy Boulevard
South Gate, Los Angeles, CA 90280

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Overview

Chrysler built its first auto assembly plant in Southern CA in 1932, while General Motors erected this facility producing Pontiac cars in 1935-1936. GM manufactured mostly full size vehicles in the post-war era, but, did produce some small Pontiac, Buick and Oldsmobile cars at the South Gate plant when the American auto industry briefly turned its attention to buidling small cars in the early 1960s. (This was, in part, due to Volswagen's very successful importation of the VW Bug in the late 1950s.) During the later 1960s, GM turned its attention back to building roomy family cars, constructing its popular Impala model in the South Gate factory. The Arab Oil Embargo of 1973 restructured the American auto industry for the remainder of the 1970s, increasing demand for "sub-compact" fuel-efficient cars. In this vein, GM South Gate built Chevrolet Vegas for much of the decade here, and sold 452,886 in 1974 alone. The Vega had been pushed into production in 1968 and marketed by 1970, a car that was poor in build quality, performance and styling; because it developed a terrible reputation for durability and performance, the marque was discontinued after only four years, by 1977. For many, the Vega stood as a powerful symbol of General Motor's decay. By the 1970s, GM's corporate culture had become conformist, bloated and apathetic, designing vehicles according to manufacturing economies and profit margins. The specificity and distinctiveness of Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, Buick and Cadillac cars became lost and build quality and performance factors began to suffer, particularly in comparison to better planned, more reliable European and Japanese products. Frequent recalls embarrassed the once mighty company; of the ten largest manufacturing recalls in GM history, eight occurred between 1965 and 1980. With its market share plummeting by 1980, GM closed its South Gate facility in 1982.

Building History

Beginning in 1903, Kahn designed many autombile plants for the Ford, Hudson, Pierce, Packard, GM, and Chrysler automobile companies. Kahn worked on the expansion of the famous Highland Park, MI, Assembly Plant operated by Henry Ford in 1913. This plant was one of a number built in California, (mostly in and around Los Angeles), by the major U.S. manufacturers to serve the booming West Coast market.

A steel strike in 1959 idled the plant for 5 weeks in the autumn and early winter of 1959. According to the Los Angeles Times, "Closed five weeks by a parts shortage resulting from the steel strike, the Buick-Oldsmobile-Pontiac automobile assembly plant in South Gate will reopen tomorrow, General Motors announced yesterday. Some 2,800 workers are being recalled to resume production of 1960 models, a GM spokesman said. Next Monday, GM expects to recall 4,200 other workers and reopen the Chevrolet and Fisher body plants in Van Nuys, closed since Oct. 22." (See "GM South Gate Plant to Reopen Tomorrow," Los Angeles Times, 12/08/1959, p. 11.)

Demolition

The GM South Gate Assembly Plant was demolished and replaced by South East High School.

PCAD id: 5994