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更新时间:2015-8-14 10:17:12 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Mercedes and Global Trade Revive Auto Plant Gone Silent in Indiana

MISHAWAKA, Ind. —The steady comeback of the American auto industry has brought new life to underused factories, as carmakers across the country add shifts of workers to meet growing demand for new vehicles.


But even in an industry on the rebound, the revival of a once-empty plant in northern Indiana stands apart.


On Tuesday, officials of AM General — the maker of Humvee military vehicles — celebrated the production of a Mercedes-Benz sport utility vehicle in a sprawling factory that once built Hummer S.U.V.s for General Motors.

周二,军用悍马(Humvee)的生产商AM General的管理人员在一家大型工厂庆祝生产梅赛德斯-奔驰(Mercedes-Benz)的一款运动型多功能汽车(SUV)。这座工厂曾为通用汽车(General Motors)制造民用悍马(Hummer)。

The plant was idle for years after G.M. went bankrupt in 2009 and had to shut down its Hummer brand and shrink other operations as a condition of its $49 billion government bailout.


At the time, it appeared that the factory in this city of 48,000 might be another casualty on the long list of auto plants that closed their doors permanently in the last recession.


Yet in an unusual turn of events, the old Hummer plant has been resurrected and, in the process, become an example of how a modest-size Rust Belt manufacturer can find its niche in an increasingly global automotive industry.


AM General’s hourly workers, who belong to the United Automobile Workers union, are building the German luxury S.U.V.s for a specific clientele: consumers in China.

AM General的小时工正在为一个特定客户群——中国消费者——生产德国品牌的豪华SUV。这些员工是工会组织全美汽车工人联合会(United Automobile Workers,简称UAW)的成员。

While a number of American auto plants export their products around the world, the factory is believed to be the only plant in the United States that ships its entire volume for sale in the Chinese market. Like other automakers, Daimler is not backing off its plans for China despite a recent sales slowdown there.


“We are making German luxury vehicles in Indiana for export to China, and doing it with workers at the oldest U.A.W. local in the nation,” said Howard B. Glaser, head of AM General’s commercial division. “You basically have the entire global economy under one roof.”

“我们在印第安纳州生产对华出口的德国品牌豪华汽车,而从事生产的是来自全国历史最悠久的UAW地方分会的工人,”AM General商业部门负责人霍华德·B·格拉泽(Howard B. Glaser)说。“基本上是在同一个屋檐下实现了全球经济。”

The plant’s revival is only one piece of what has become a vibrant American auto manufacturing sector.


The number of American-made vehicles exported to other countries has grown to more than 2.1 million in 2014, more than doubling from just over 1 million in 2009, according to federal data from the Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration.

美国商务部旗下的国际贸易管理局(International Trade Administration)提供的联邦数据显示,2014年,美国制造的出口汽车的数量从2009年的100万辆增至逾210万辆,提高了一倍多。

Exports to China have particularly skyrocketed, jumping to 305,000 last year from barely 25,000 vehicles in 2009.


According to the Center for Automotive Research, overall American vehicle production hit 11.66 million last year, up from 11.07 million in 2013. Bernard Swiecki, assistant director of the center’s Automotive Communities Partnership, said that with auto sales booming, it was not surprising that factories that survived the downturn were now roaring.

据汽车研究中心(Center for Automotive Research)透露,美国汽车总产量去年达到1166万辆,多于2013年的1107万辆。中心的汽车社区合作伙伴项目(Automotive Communities Partnership)助理主管伯纳德·斯维基(Bernard Swiecki)表示,随着汽车销售业务的蓬勃发展,那些挺过低迷期的工厂现在取得了成功,并不是什么意外之事。

“It’s pure supply and demand,” Mr. Swiecki said. “The automakers have to produce vehicles for a robust market, and so they’re squeezing every bit of production they can out of these locations.”


In 2010 and into 2011, the center estimates that capacity utilization at North American auto plants — including Canada and Mexico — had fallen to about 70 percent, he said. In 2012, when the recovery began, that rose to 91 percent — and last year, it grew to 96 percent.


Mr. Swiecki said that Mercedes-Benz’s plans for the factory in Indiana was a sign of an industry with the wind at its back.


“In a good economy like this, that plant is going to be very, very busy,” he said.


The workers at the plant, many of whom had endured long layoffs in recent years, are grateful to be back on the assembly line — and proud of their plant’s status as a full-time exporter.


“You do quality work and people will want to pay for it, no matter where they are from,” said Jason Smith, a worker at the plant for 11 years.

在厂里工作了11年的贾森·史密斯(Jason Smith)表示,“做出高质量的产品,消费者就会愿意为此掏钱,无论他们来自哪里。”

About 350 hourly workers staff the plant, down from a high of 1,000 employees during the glory days of the gas-guzzling Hummer brand at G.M.


While it may not be operating at full capacity, the factory has become a bright spot in the Indiana economy, which lost many manufacturing jobs in the last recession.


The nearby city of Elkhart, for example, lost thousands of manufacturing jobs in the recreational vehicle industry, and unemployment rates in the area approached 20 percent.


The AM General plant was only eight years old when G.M. went bankrupt.

通用汽车申请破产时,AM General的这家工厂只有八年的历史。

“Those were very tough times,” said David Whitby, who heads commercial manufacturing for AM General. “We went from having about 1,000 workers in the plant down to just about zero.”

“那是非常艰难的时期,”AM General商业制造部门负责人戴维·惠特比( David Whitby)说。“厂里的员工从上千人降到了基本为零。”

Some of the laid-off workers at AM General transferred to the company’s military vehicle facility next door to the Hummer plant. But job security was tenuous there as well.

AM General的一些失业员工转移到民用悍马厂隔壁生产军用车的地方工作。但那里也缺乏工作保障。

“We just had to keep moving forward and hoping for the best,” said Velgean Daniel, who has worked for the company for 15 years.

在公司服务了15年的维格安·丹尼尔(Velgean Daniel)说,“我们不得不继续往前走,期盼最好的结果。”

The plant started its slow recovery in 2011, when it began building limited volumes of a handicapped-accessible van created by a start-up company called MV-1.


Production was too small to allow AM General to begin recalling the bulk of the laid-off workers. And the plant itself was considerably larger than was needed just for the MV-1.

由于产量非常少,AM General无法开始召回大部分的失业员工,而工厂本身要比只生产MV-1车所需的规模大得多。

A huge opportunity was on the horizon, though, as the auto industry in the United States started its revival.


The German automaker Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, was running short on production capacity for S.U.V.s at its factory in Alabama.


Last year, Mercedes officials started scouting for other possible sites to build one of the plant’s S.U.V. models, the R-class.


The R-class had never caught on with American consumers, and sales in the United States were discontinued a few years ago. But the sleek, station-wagon-shaped model was a hit in China, and Mercedes was determined to keep building it.


Jason Hoff, the head of Mercedes operations in the United States, said it was not practical to relocate the supply base for the R-class from North America to China. “That would have been far too expensive,” he said.

梅赛德斯美国公司负责人贾森·霍夫(Jason Hoff)表示,将R级车的供应基地从北美迁至中国是不切实际的。“成本过高,” 他说。

Instead, Mercedes signed a multiyear contract to have AM General assemble the R-class in Mishawaka, using parts shipped into the facility from suppliers throughout North America and Europe.

梅赛德斯转而签订了一份多年合同,利用北美和欧洲供应商的部件在米沙沃卡的这家AM General工厂组装R级车。

“They had a lot of experience here and a very good work force,” Mr. Hoff said. “And the facility is very flexible and can integrate our product quite well.”


An AM General spokesman said the company did not need any financial incentives from state or local government to retool the plant for the new model.

AM General发言人表示,为了生产新车型,公司并不需要由州或地方政府提供的任何资金奖励来更换工厂的设备。

Now, the plant is building between 70 and 100 vehicles a day, mostly R-class S.U.V.s as well as a small number of MV-1 vans.


There is enough space for more models in the plant, and Mr. Glaser of AM General said the company was hoping other manufacturers might send it products they could not build on their own.

该厂还有足够的空间来生产多款汽车,AM General的格拉泽也表示,公司希望其他厂商可以将无法自行生产的型号交给它来代工。

Mishawaka’s mayor, David Wood, said the turnaround at the plant had had a profound impact on his community, and not just because much-needed jobs and paychecks have returned.

米沙沃卡市长戴维·伍德 (David Wood)表示,这家工厂情况的好转对整座城市产生了深远影响,不仅仅是因为这为他们带来了亟需的工作和报酬。