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General Motors Corp. plans to shut down an unprofitable Delphi Interior & Lighting Systems plant in Ewing, N.J., in 1998 and transfer some of its operations to its Grand Rapids, Mich., facility.

The Delphi Trenton plant, a large molder of nylon and PVC, makes a variety of manual and power seat adjusters and exterior body moldings for several car lines. Production at the 60-year-old plant near Trenton, N.J., will be phased out gradually as the production life ends on certain GM vehicles, said Delphi spokeswoman Lynda Messina. The company did not specify which vehicles use components made at the plant.

The plant uses seven injection molding machines, with clamping forces of 500-750 tons, and five extruders. The equipment either will be sold or transferred to other plants.

The shutdown, which was announced Feb. 3 to the plant's 872 employees, is the latest setback in the operation's checkered recent past. In 1993, General Motors announced plans to close the plant, only to delay the process after two potential buyers came forward.

When negotiations fell through a year later, a plan was worked out between management and union employees to return the plant to profitability and competitiveness, Messina said. Details of that plan were not revealed.

Unfortunately, revitalization efforts failed at the 1.1 million-square-foot plant, known as the first GM facility opened outside Detroit.

``Closing the plant keeps us in line to reduce our structural costs and excess capacity across all Delphi plants,'' Messina said. ``Unfortunately, employees there have faced several years of uncertainty about the future.''

Delphi, a division of General Motors, has attempted in the past year to sell or close other underperforming plants, which have been known around GM as the ``12 uglies.'' Late last year, Delphi plants in Windsor and Oshawa, Ontario, and Flint and Livonia, Mich., were sold to Peregrine Inc. of Southfield, Mich.

The Trenton plant's 784 hourly employees are represented by United Auto Workers Local 731 in Trenton. Attempts to reach union officials were unsuccessful.

The company is talking with the union, salaried employees and the state of New Jersey to transfer some of the plant's employees to other General Motors facilities, Messina said.

Some of the plant's assembly work for power seat adjusters eventually will be shifted to the 752,000-square-foot Grand Rapids Delphi facility, which also makes seat backs, headrests and seat cushions. Delphi operates 18 plants in North America, including the Trenton operation.

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