The Pontiac Assembly Center in Pontiac, Mich., is a massive, low-slung structure of concrete and corrugated green steel that squats conspicuously among the many strip malls that line one of the city’s main thoroughfares, South Opdyke Road. Locals refer to the three-million-square-foot factory, which makes Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks, as Plant 6, because when it opened in 1972, it was the sixth General Motors manufacturing facility in this city, 25 miles north of downtown Detroit. At the time, General Motors was the world’s largest automaker. It dominated the American market, manufacturing half of the vehicles sold in the U.S. As recently as 2003, Plant 6 was running three consecutive eight-hour shifts, employing 3,000 people and making 1,300 trucks a day.
Today, Pontiac Assembly is the city’s last working auto-assembly plant, and like many of America’s car factories, it is operating at a greatly diminished capacity.