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Los Angeles' Auto Manufacturing Past

Ford, Automobiles, Manufacturing, Long Beach, 1930

Ford auto assembly plant in Long Beach, April 1930. Photo from Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive at UCLA Library

In 1902, Auto Vehicle Company in Los Angeles began manufacturing the first production motor vehicles in California. That effort eventually ended by 1910 with perhaps less than 3,000 units produced. Nevertheless, from the late 1940s through the 1960s, Los Angeles County went on to become the second largest auto manufacturing region in the nation, following closely behind Detroit. Studebaker, Chrysler, Ford, Kaiser-Frazer, General Motors, Studebaker and Willys-Overland (Jeep) manufactured vehicles here. At its peak, more than 15,000 auto workers were assembling half a million automobiles per year. By 1965, the Los Angeles Times even suggested that Los Angeles had pushed past Detroit as the nation’s auto capital. During the 1970s, however, imports began flooding in, consuming a significant portion of the Los Angeles auto market. In 1971, the Chrysler plant in the City of Commerce was the first major auto plant to close. Other plant shutdowns followed until the region’s last remaining automobile assembly plant, the General Motors facility in Van Nuys, closed in 1992.

Automobile Manufacturing Plants in Los Angeles County

Company Plant Name Location Products Year Opened Year Closed
Ford Los Angeles Assembly Plant (Original) Originally @ 12th & Olive St, then (1912) @ E Seventh St & Santa Fe Ave, Los Angeles Ford Model T 1911 1930
Willys-Overland California Factory 6201 Randolph St, Maywood Jeep 1929 1954
Ford Long Beach Assembly Plant 700 N Henry Ford Ave, Long Beach Ford Model A 1930 1959
Chrysler Los Angeles Plant 5800 S Eastern Ave, Commerce Dodge, Plymouth 1932 1971
Studebaker Los Angeles Assembly Plant 4530 Loma Vista Ave, Vernon Studebaker 1938 1956
Ford Maywood Assembly Plant 5801 S Eastern Ave, Commerce Lincoln, Mercury 1948 1957

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Ford, Automobiles, Manufacturing, Long Beach, 1930

Auto assembly workers at Studebaker assembly plant in Vernon, 1936. From LA Daily News Negatives Collection at UCLA Library.

Table continues from above.

Company Plant Name Location Products Year Opened Year Closed
Kaiser-Frazer Long Beach Assembly Plant Long Beach (Adjacent to Airport) Deluxe, Special, Traveler 1949 1951
General Motors South Gate Assembly Plant 2720 Tweedy Blvd, South Gate Chevrolet, Buick, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Cadillac 1936 1982
General Motors Van Nuys Assembly Plant Van Nuys, Los Angeles Chevrolet, Pontiac 1947 1992
Nash Motors/American Motors El Segundo Plant El Segundo Nash 1948 1955
Ford Los Angeles Assembly Plant (Latter) 8820 Washington Blvd, Pico Rivera Mercury, Edsel 1958 1980
TABC, Inc., (subsidiary of Toyota) Los Angeles Assembly Plant (Latter) 6375 Paramount Blvd, Long Beach Toyota parts, Hino trucks* 1972 Open

* Hino truck manufacturing discontinued in 2008.

Source: Wikipedia & Almanac Research

Also see:
-- First Automobile to Appear in Southern California
-- L.A.'s First Electric Car

In 1914, Ford Motor Company opened Southern California's earliest auto assembly plant in Los Angeles to assemble Model T Fords. In 1930, Ford moved its manufacturing to a plant in Long Beach alongside the harbor and produced 1.5 million vehicles there before closing the plant in 1959. Many employees from the closed plant transferred to the Ford plant in Pico Rivera.

During World War II, all automobile manufacturing for civilian use came to a halt. Most plants were converted to military production, with some turning to aircraft and aircraft part manufacturing.

The GM plant in South Gate was the first to build multiple car lines as an effort to cut production costs during the Great Depression. During the 1950s, it put out more vehicles than any other GM plant.

When the second Ford plant opened in 1930 in Long Beach, the original Los Angeles Assembly Plant to be closed had been producing 225 cars daily.

The TABC, Inc. (subsidiary of Toyota) assembly plant in Long Beach, opened in 1972, was Toyota's first plant in the United States.

The Los Angeles Assembly Plant of Ford Motor Company closed in 1980 and was purchased by Northrup Grumman for aircraft manufacturing. It became the home of the B-2 Bomber.

Portions of the sites of the former auto manufacturing plants in Pico Rivera (Ford) and in Van Nuys (GM) are now shopping centers.