What the Auto Industry's Hope and Redemption Could Mean for WNY

February 9, 2011 Updated Feb 9, 2011 at 12:35 AM EDT

By WKBW News

February 9, 2011 Updated Feb 9, 2011 at 12:35 AM EDT

TONAWANDA, NY (WKBW) - When the U.S. auto market drove off the road in 2008, General Motors was on the off-ramp to bankruptcy and seriously considering the future of the Tonawanda Powertrain Plant.

"Yes, there was very, very much a serious danger that the plant could have easily been closed," said Steve Finch, plant manager at the River Road facility.

"We were very, very fortunate I think to have a lot of right things going on this facility," he said. "Our people, our working relationship with the union, our close connection with the community."

All eventually helped secure two new engine lines for the factory, a $800 million investment and hundreds of new jobs.

Detroit has reinvented itself.

If you watched the Super Bowl on Sunday, chances are you saw Chrysler's two-minute commercial introducing a new sedan and a new, post-bankruptcy auto maker.

"Chrysler has introduced six new products in the last 60 days and they have a lot more coming," said Jim Hillery of Transitowne Chrysler.

Local dealers are seeing a turnaround and big increases in business.

At Paddock Chevrolet, owner Duane Paddock reported a record-breaking December and January.

"We have a different direction. We're looking at things differently. That obviously filters down to their dealers and the way dealers are approaching business I think is different," Paddock said.