Although the writing has been on the wall since General Motors emerged from bankruptcy, the closing of the Wilmington Assembly Plant (also known as the Boxwood Road Assembly Plant) in Wilmington, Delaware is no less painful for employees or fans of the Kappa-platform cars, known in the U.S. as the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky. The Wilmington Assembly Plant opened in 1947 and, at its peak, employed more than 5,000 employees.
From the very beginning, both the Solstice and Sky were highly regarded as tools to help turn both GM divisions around. For Pontiac, the Solstice helped revived the excitement that has been missing since the company killed off the Firebird. As for Saturn, the Sky was a sporty, non-plastic bodied roadster that helped breathe a little life into the brand by offering a stylish design and a powerful, rear-wheel drive powertrain. During their brief existence, the Solstice and Sky were available with a 260-horsepower turbocharged inline-4 with direct injection, and a fun-to-drive attitude that was arguably more enjoyable than the iconic Mazda MX-5 Miata.
Both cars are sure to be future classics in their own right only surviving for two model years (2007-2009), but the Solstice Coupe is sure to draw some attention in the future. WhileÂ it is not yet clear how many units GM produced before the plant's closure, we're sure it's not that many. With the 2009 Pontiac Solstice Coupes hitting dealership showrooms as production of the model has already ceased, we're sure this means that the Coupe is going to survive in very limited numbers. The Opel GT and Daewoo G2X were also built alongside the Sky and Solstice, and exported to Europe and Asia, respectively.
Saturn was saved from being killed off completely by Roger Penske's Penske Motors, but only time will tell what will become of the once-promising brand. GM will continue to produce the Outlook, Aura and non-hybrid VUE for the Penske-owned Saturn until the end of 2011, but after that it will most likely look to import cars from upstart automakers in China or small cars from Renault-Nissan. With Pontiac set to close, there was no viable reason to keep the Saturn (now a non-GM brand) in production.
The last vehicle to roll off the assembly line of the 62-year-old factory was a silver 2009 Pontiac Solstice roadster which is surely headed to a GM museum somewhere. The popularity of both two-seater roadsters is apparent by the number of Solstice and Sky fan club members that were present during 'farewell celebration' of the factory that included current workers and retirees. Past vehicles to be produced at the Wilmington Assembly Plant include the Chevrolet Beretta, Chevrolet Corsica and the fifth-generation Chevrolet Malibu.